Everyone who can be vaccinated, should be

With measles resurfacing in Latah County, it’s more important than ever to vaccinate young children

ALANA LACKNER, Evergreen managing editor

After two children contracted measles in Moscow, according to a press release from Public Health Idaho, people are discussing the necessity of vaccines again. These two cases happened in a child who was too young to be vaccinated and their sibling, who had only had the first measles vaccination.

This may not seem like a threat, but people who choose not to vaccinate their children have made this a lot scarier for everyone.

Gritman Medical Center said in  its official statement that they took the measles scare seriously and that the staff completely sanitized the parts of the hospital where the infected individuals were located.

An isolated case now has the chance to be a full-on outbreak. Vaccines are rapidly improving and saving lives, yet parents are now refusing to vaccinate their children.

It’s true that it’s their choice to do so — but this choice is one that could ultimately lead to the deaths of many others.

According to a press release from Public Health Idaho, “Measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease. It mainly spreads through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes … If you are ill and think you have measles, stay at home [and] contact your healthcare provider.”

A once near-eradicated disease just seems to keep coming back. 2019 has been one outbreak after another; in fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 1,000 cases of measles reported during the first six months of 2019. This is the highest it’s been in 27 years.

The worst part is that it’s almost always children under 5 years of age that are affected.

There are many cases like the recent measles cases in Moscow. Babies that are too young to get vaccinated, children who have not gotten their second round of vaccinations and immuno-compromised people rely on the rest of us to get vaccinated and provide herd immunity.

Herd immunity describes how immuno-compromised people who are unable to be vaccinated can be protected from disease by the majority of their community being vaccinated to stop the spread of disease.

Many people in the anti-vax movement believe their choice not to vaccinate is their own business. They claim that if vaccines do work then it shouldn’t be a problem for others – failing to recognize that young children and immuno-compromised individuals rely on the herd immunity anti-vaxxers are compromising.

Vaccines eliminated polio from the U.S., according to the CDC, and had effectively eliminated measles before the anti-vax movement took hold. They save lives in many parts of the world where healthcare is less accessible.

There are many arguments against vaccines that you often hear thrown around. Not only are most of them untrue, even those that are don’t constitute letting a young child die from an otherwise preventable illness.

One argument is that vaccines cause autism. This came from a study years ago, and not only has it since been retracted, but the senior author has also been discredited due to data manipulation, according to publichealth.org.

Another argument is that vaccines contain mercury, which would make receiving vaccinations akin to injecting poison in your veins. This contains a semblance of truth, which is that many vaccines contain thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, according to the CDC.

The type of mercury that is considered toxic is methylmercury, which has never been used in vaccines and is actually found in certain kinds of fish. In high doses, it can be dangerous to people. However, the type of mercury some vaccines contain is ethylmercury, which clears from the human body quickly, and has been proven not to cause harm in small doses. Even with that being the case, thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines in 2001 due to public concern. The measles vaccine does not contain thimerosal.

If you’re concerned about the effects a vaccine may have on your child, consult with your doctor before making the choice. Professionals can help direct you to other sources so you can be informed. It’s okay to be afraid for your child. Many people opposing vaccines come from a place of grief or uncertainty.

As scary as being a parent can be, it’s important not to let fear make your decisions. Years and years of medical research and work have gone into creating safe vaccines to make a better life for today’s children. If you were the parent of a child who isn’t able to be vaccinated for medical or age reasons, you would want other parents to make the responsible choice for your child and society at large.

Whether vaccinated or in need of herd immunity, children deserve the best chance at living healthy lives, and it’s our job as their caretakers to give them that.