A growing movement of misinformed parents who refuse to vaccinate their children has caused the recent outbreak of Measles, a virus which was once considered eliminated in the United States.
It started in mid-December when an outbreak occurred at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Since the theme park attracts guests from around the world, including countries where vaccination rates are not as high, it was the perfect incubator for measles.
According to the New York Times, 102 people have been infected nationwide so far this year, and it is expected to spread among those who still haven’t received the vaccine.
At the onset of the new millennium, the fact that the United States had eradicated measles was the culmination of a vaccination program that was released to the general public in 1963. Prior to this, measles was an extremely common illness, as it still is in the rest of the world.
According to the Center for Disease Control, by 1960, over 750,000 U. S. residents were hit by the virus, and between 1956 and 1960, there was an average death rate of about 400 people per year.
However, the U.S. can no longer say that it is measles free. Even within the California State University, Long Beach community, one of our students had a confirmed case but has since recovered. In the mean time, this student exposed twenty other people while on a field trip, according to NBC4 and CSULB.
The current anti-vaccination movement is rooted in a 1998 study conducted by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that the rise of people being diagnosed with Autism directly correlated with a growing number of children being vaccinated, according to a Forbes article.
The media in the U. S. and United Kingdom quickly publicized the supposed finding, and organizations founded by parents began growing in number to file lawsuits against companies that manufactured vaccines, as well as to put an end to public schools requiring students to be vaccinated.
However, other medical researchers could not reproduce Wakefield’s study.
In 2004, it was revealed that falsified data had been used, and the medical professionals soon declared the study a hoax. The spike in the rates of people who have autism was due to greater numbers of people reporting the genetic condition.
By 2010, Wakefield had his credentials revoked as a medical doctor, and the journal that initially published the research, The Lancet, officially retracted the paper. Such events, however, did not stop the anti-vaccination movement.
According to a 2012 study by the University of Cincinnati, Lenisa Chang, an assistant professor of economics there, found that there had been a 2 percent decline in the rate of child vaccinations, and that number had been steadily decreasing ever since the MMR immunization had been falsely linked to autism. What is even more shocking was that mothers who had obtained a higher level of education were less likely to give their children the measles, mumps and rubella immunization.
An article published in the Atlantic on Sept. 14, 2014 revealed that schools in wealthy neighborhoods of Los Angeles had significantly lower vaccination rates than the rest of the city. At some of these schools, 60 to 70 percent of parents requested that their children be exempted from vaccinations due to personal beliefs.
Such low rates mirror those in Sub-Saharan African countries like Chad, where access to vaccinations is limited due to a poor economic situation and a lack of medical infrastructure, according to the World Health Organization.
This ignorance and rejection of science by parents who are disproportionately educated and have high incomes can be blamed on a lack of literacy when researching health topics on the Internet.
The catch-22 of increased access to the Internet is that, while there has never been an easier way to create, share, and discuss information, many people are susceptible to believing false claims – especially on topics like politics and science.
The anti-vaccination movement has largely been able to gain steam through a series of false articles, badly cited blogs and the outright ludicrous credibility given to celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, who was duped into believing that her son’s autism is a result of vaccines.
This current measles outbreak serves as yet another prime example as to how false information and refusal to accept scientific facts can have a negative impact on people’s lives.
In sum, pay attention in your English 100 classes when they tell you how to cite a credible source. It might literally prevent people dying from an illness. Please, have the decency to vaccinate your children for the survival of the human species.