Disneyland—a magical place filled with talking animals, beautiful princesses, and once-eradicated diseases.
While the debate about vaccinations has been happening for years, the recent outbreak of measles in Disneyland has sparked a new discussion about vaccinations and their benefits. Unfortunately, larger numbers of parents are choosing to not vaccinate their children for various reasons, the most prevalent of which being that vaccines cause autism in children.
First stated in a 1998 report by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield—which has now been declared fraudulent by hundreds of doctors and scientific studies—and taken up by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, the idea that vaccines cause autism in children has become a contentious issue among modern parents. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many parenting blogs on the Internet decry the use of vaccines, their authors proudly admitting that they don’t vaccinate their children. However, this debate has more serious implications for the next generation than most people realize.
Here at Kalamazoo College and at universities across the nation, we’re required to have all our vaccines before matriculation. This isn’t only for our own health, but for the health of the entire student body. As this new generation of non-vaccinated children grows to college age, the health background of college campuses everywhere could change, and maybe not for the better.
Just a few days ago, a college student from New York who was infected with the measles virus boarded the Amtrak train in Penn Station. By stepping onto that crowded, musty train, a perfect place for viruses to multiply, he exposed hundreds of people and could have started a potential outbreak.
This isn’t an issue we only see in elementary schools or Disneyland, not vaccinating effects people of all ages, including students like us.
Not vaccinating your child has some pretty serious risks. Once eradicated diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, and smallpox are now seeing a rise, as evidenced by the latest outbreak at Disneyland. But, more importantly, this irrational fear of vaccinations and autism only serves to strengthen the stigma against the autistic spectrum disorders.
Here’s the truth, pure and simple: vaccines do not cause autism. Hundreds of studies and thousands of dollars of research money have led to this conclusion, but it’s something that many American parents still don’t take seriously. Non-vaccinated children are not only a threat to themselves, but to the larger community as well. And not only is this debate pointless, it’s extremely ableist as well. What does it say about the view towards autism in this country when parent would rather have a child die of a preventable disease than possibly develop autism?
This new outbreak of measles is only an example of what can happen across the nation as the anti-vaccination movement continuously spreads their paranoia and misinformation.