Vaccinating children and young adults remains a highly contentious issue throughout America.
In 1998, a revolutionary study linking vaccinations and childhood autism diagnoses was released in the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet. Published by then-surgeon Andrew Wakefield, the study purported that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was directly linked to higher rates of autism diagnoses in British children. Inciting issues of safety, vaccination confidence rates — and the worldwide rate altogether — plunged amidst the release of the study. Consequently and unsurprisingly, the serious injury and death rates of measles and mumps outbreaks within Ireland and the United Kingdom rose dramatically.
Immediately following the study’s release, several international epidemiological studies were conducted in order to substantiate Wakefield’s claims. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.K. National Health Service, in addition to several additional global health agencies, quickly released statements disproving the entirety of Wakefield’s study, citing the blatantly unscientific and miscalculated results and calling into question the ethicality of the motivations of Wakefield’s seemingly purposefully incorrect release.
One would imagine, if the safety of their own children was at stake, most parents would complete at least one compulsory Google search in order to gauge the safety of vaccinations. However, for many parents, the thought of performing a simple Internet search is evidently too cumbersome to imagine, and instead many prefer to root their ideologies within the widely disproven, purposefully fabricated medical publication of a British conman. They would rather have their own children get sick and spread illnesses to other children than spend two minutes of their time reading about the falsified study they attribute their opinions on vaccinations. The study gained international momen
tum, becoming one of the largest medical hoaxes in modern medical history.
The plot thickened, as it always does, when it was revealed in 2004 that Wakefield had received more than $435,000 from lawyers attempting to launch lawsuits against vaccination marketers. Part of a $3.4 million plot against vaccination authorities, Wakefield received his first payment from the lawyers nearly two years prior to releasing his study. Once this information was revealed, Wakefield was booted from the Medical Register, having been found guilty of gross professional misconduct. Barring him from ever practicing medicine in the United Kingdom, Wakefield moved to Austin, Texas, where he currently maintains residence.
Twenty years later, vaccinations remain a contentious issue for the American citizenry.
While Wakefield’s study was disproven entirely by the world’s largest health authorities, the ramifications of his farcical study continue to plague American citizens. Nonmedical vaccination exemptions — primarily entertained by those within the “anti-vaxxer” movement, which, if you are looking for some particularly flaming garbage to read about, please look up the movement — allow many parents to avoid them, simultaneously belittling the valid religious and medical exemptions many Americans claim. While many states, including Oregon, have rewritten their vaccination policies for children attending public schools, many states still allow broad, sweeping non-medical exemptions for parents, thereby perpetuating infections and outbreak rates of preventable diseases.
Referencing recent mumps outbreaks on two Missouri college campuses that infected more than 200 students, lawmakers in Indiana and Kentucky have recently moved to revamp and tighten their states’ vaccinations policies. Kentuckian lawmakers have begun drafting a bill that would require all publicly enrolled college students to prove vaccinations required by Cabinet for Health and Family Services, similar to the immunization records forms we complete at LC. Indianian lawmakers, however, have focused primarily upon requiring college freshman to have a meningitis vaccination prior to entering college. Both require that mandatory vaccinations be maintained for college students, and limit the exemptions to which one may claim in avoiding vaccinations. Both provide promising first steps and implementing a nationwide mandatory vaccination plan tailored toward college students specifically.
The importance of vaccinating youth and young adults cannot be overstressed. It is pivotal that we as a nation continue to arm ourselves against preventable diseases. Removing non-medical and non-religious exemptions from state vaccination protocols is a solid first step. Moving forward, however, we must not falter in our strict enforcement of vaccination requirements for college students. Vaccines are perhaps the most safe and consistent means of saving human life that we currently posses. To allow college students to enter universities without first being immunized against preventable diseases — thereby infecting other similarly non-immunized students and perpetuating preventable injury and death — is a grave threat to the safety of many young adults throughout the world.