Updated: Jun 28, 2020
By Claire Yuan, Copy Editor
As technology improves and sweeps through the development of science and medicine, humanity witnesses the mass suppression of countless fatal diseases. Perhaps better food and hygiene has played a role in this evolution, but vaccines — despite the misinformation that floods the internet — have undoubtedly improved health conditions in developed countries around the world.
However, there is more to be done to prevent disease outbreaks, even in developed countries like the United States. When people choose to stop getting vaccinated, the number of cases of preventable diseases like measles rapidly multiply, leaving hundreds or even thousands of people at risk of infection. This is now more pertinent than ever, in a time when the power of social media has allowed the anti-vaxxer movement to take off. The opponents of vaccination are now easily able to spread false information across the globe, fooling people from sequestered villages to bustling cosmopolitan cities.
Even worse, many of the diseases that vaccines prevent are highly contagious; the lack of vaccination makes it easier for these diseases to spread with lightning speed. For example, in 2015, someone became infected with measles while traveling overseas. In spite of the infection, this traveler returned to the United States to visit Disneyland in California. The disease quickly evolved into a large, multi-state measles outbreak. Of the 188 people in 24 states that became sick with measles, most were unvaccinated. In the past few years, travelers from over 22 countries have continued to bring the measles virus into the United States. In fact, the 372 cases reported in 2018 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has climbed dramatically to 704 cases in the first few months of 2019.
Another example of a recent massive outbreak of a preventable disease happened in Indiana in 2016. From February to April 2016, the Indiana State Department of Health confirmed mumps outbreaks at four different universities. Unfortunately, the epidemic spread across the nation, contributing to a total of 6,366 mumps cases reported in the United States in 2016 — the highest count in over a decade. In this case, not only does the outbreak reflect the dangerous nature of the refusal to vaccinate, but it also highlights the carelessness of some academic institutions when it comes to mandating vaccines. Although there has been strong debate over whether schools should require their students to get vaccinated, it is undeniably perilous for all students, faculty, and staff if people are not vaccinated. In an environment of close day-to-day interactions, minimal immunity can cause a virus like mumps to spread like wildfire.
For those against vaccination, the idea of injecting small portions of a weakened virus back into the body to generate immunity seems counterintuitive. Some anti-vaxxers still cling tightly to their beliefs that essential oils and other strange tricks will somehow ward off any and all diseases. However, the ultimate impact of mass anti-vaxxer movements ripples out into the whole of society. With large numbers of people choosing to forgo immunity of preventable diseases, these viruses are able to tear through society, ripping apart the shield of herd immunity that was once protected many. Every person who is able to get a vaccine and chooses not to ends up with blood on their hands: the blood of those who cannot get vaccinated and were relying on the logic and sense of their fellow citizens to keep them safe.