Measles, mumps, rubella — These three virulent diseases have been easily preventable since the introduction of the MMR vaccine in 1971. And yet, in 2014, the United States experienced 667 measles cases, the most since measles were deemed eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. Most of the individuals who contracted the disease were unvaccinated. Mandatory vaccinations are necessary to protect innocent people from preventable diseases.
While both mumps and rubella are extremely contagious diseases with serious risks of their own, measles infections are both highly infectious and dangerous. Not only does the measles virus cause high fever and a rash, the additional complications —such as pneumonia — can prove deadly. Measles is the No. 1 killer out of the vaccine-preventable diseases, and, according to the World Health Organization, vaccination efforts led to a 79 percent decrease in measles-related deaths between 2000 and 2015.
Despite the obvious efficacy of the MMR vaccine, many parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Resistance toward vaccines has always been an issue for the healthcare community, most notably since Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a false research report in 1998 linking autism with the MMR vaccine. Wakefield’s claims were so egregious and deliberately false that he was fired from his hospital job and his name was struck from the United Kingdom’s medical register. Despite the falsehood, many people believed the report and refuse to vaccinate their children. According to a CNN report on the unvaccinated population, excluding Mississippi and West Virginia, 48 states still allow religious exemptions from vaccines, and 20 allow philosophical exemptions. These allowances for vaccination exemptions endanger those who are not able to protect themselves from the virus.
Because children who are medically unable to be vaccinated, people who are elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems remain at risk of contracting dangerous diseases, it is the responsibility of others to protect them through “herd immunity.”
If everyone who can get vaccinated does, then the virus has a much harder time reaching those who can’t be protected by the vaccine. By allowing so many children that are healthy enough to receive vaccines to go unvaccinated, anti-vaccine parents open up their children to be carriers of potentially deadly diseases to the most vulnerable segment of the population.
Like any kind of medicine, vaccines do carry a risk of side effects. However, the most common side effects are fever, mild rash and the swelling of glands in the face or neck. While these are mildly irritating, the side effects of measles, mumps and rubella are dangerous and potentially life-threatening. No parent’s philosophical or religious concerns should be allowed to threaten the health of others. Mandatory vaccines are necessary to protect those who are incapable of protecting themselves against preventable diseases.