Disneyland, California, known as the happiest place on Earth, attracts more than 16 million visitors a year. In January, Disney quickly became a hotspot for one of the most infectious airborne diseases, the measles.
Since January, there have been more than 141 reported cases of measles all directly linked to one case at Disneyland. An infected person who coughs or sneezes can spread the disease through the air, where it can live for two hours. Unlike other illnesses, like Ebola, where a person is only contagious when displaying symptoms, a person with the measles is contagious roughly four days before and four days after he or she begins displaying symptoms.
In a situation where no one is vaccinated, one infected individual could spread the disease to eighteen others. However, because of the M.M.R. (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine, the measles were declared eradicated in the United States in 2000 (CDC).
But it’s back, and in frightening numbers. And this is because in the past decade, the number of unvaccinated Americans has increased. In 2014, 644 Americans contracted the measles, the highest number of cases since it was declared eradicated.
We rely on herd immunity to stop diseases like the mumps and measles from spreading.
Herd immunity is when a large number of the population is vaccinated, therefore providing protection and decreasing the spread of contagious diseases to those who have not received the vaccination. For herd immunity to be effective, roughly 94% of the community needs to be vaccinated. The problem is that currently only 91% of Americans are vaccinated (Time Magazine).
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding vaccines is the idea that they are dangerous. One in ten Americans believe that vaccines are not safe, and that percentage increases to 15% in the 18-29 year old age group (Time Magazine).
Many myths surround vaccines, like the idea that they haven’t been tested enough or that they can result in autism. In 1998, a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a study claiming the M.M.R. vaccine caused autism. His study was not scientifically valid; from a sample of 12 autistic children, eight of the parents said that their children developed signs of autism shortly after receiving the M.M.R. vaccine.
Countless other studies were conducted and all proved Wakefield’s results to be false. Wakefield even lost his medical license, and the journal that published the study retracted it.
However, the stigma surrounding such crucial vaccines like the M.M.R. vaccine continues, and a poll showed that 18% of Americans still believe vaccines can cause autism, despite all the evidence against it. Misinformed individuals are threatening the well being of everyone else. All states except for West Virginia and Mississippi allow for exemptions for vaccines, but these exemptions are what are bringing these diseases back.
Vaccinations need to be required by law for everyone, and the United States needs to get rid of all exceptions to the law. According to The New York Times, in both West Virginia and Mississippi, there have been no occurrences of vaccine-preventable diseases in the past six years. However, in states that allow exemptions, there have been an increased number of outbreaks, including the current measles epidemic. We should consider the health and safety of the whole country first and not allow individuals to initiate a reemergence of nearly eradicated diseases.
We have to think about those who are extremely susceptible to some of these diseases like the measles, such as people who can’t receive the vaccines. Babies less than one year old cannot receive the M.M.R. or M.M.R.V. vaccine. Some people can’t get certain vaccines due to previous illnesses or allergies, and anyone with cancer or in the processes of chemotherapy or radiation cannot receive vaccines (CDC). These certain groups are also highly likely to contract the diseases should they come in contact with them. They rely on herd immunization to keep them safe, but that doesn’t seem to be working as effectly anymore.
Vaccintions need to be required for everyone, no exceptions, to ensure the health of the entire country. There are no absolutely no excuses for the re-emergences of diseases like the measles, and the United States needs to take action now to prevent any future health epidemics.
Courtesy of The Trinity Voice