he year 1980 marked the highly effective global eradication of smallpox. This extermination was made possible through a highly regulated vaccination program coordinated by the World Health Organization, where the disease was monitored. Anyone who could have been exposed to the virus was vaccinated immediately through a process known as “ring vaccination.”
Research and years of medical advances in the field of vaccinations have enabled the United States to come close to eradicating many diseases. However, if the misconceptions behind invulnerability to disease continue to spread, the reverse may be a consequence.
Despite the high success rate of vaccinations, people have begun to doubt the efficacy of immunizations. Childhood vaccination practices in some areas have fallen by the wayside, resulting in a resurgence of preventable cases of polio, measles and chickenpox. Previously, people could have relied on herd immunity, meaning if enough individuals around them have the vaccine, they are protected from the disease. But as fewer and fewer people deem childhood immunizations necessary, that wall of fortification is beginning to dissipate.
Major debate stems from an individual’s personal liberty in this matter.
Parents are able to determine whether vaccinations align with their beliefs. However, as the pockets of immunity-free communities grow, more and more people are likely to come in contact with preventable diseases that now have the capability to mutate and infect those who are vaccinated. As a result, that personal decision to opt out of immunization damages the well-being of an entire nation and can create a ripple effect that jeopardizes future generations.
Many also perceive a false connection between autism and natal immunization. Many parents have gone to the media with the assumption that their child developed autism spectrum disorder as a result of immunological overload. However, no scientific evidence supports this notion. In fact, medical advances in streamlining the vaccination process have significantly decreased this strain over the years.
With flu season right around the corner, the debate outlining vaccinations becomes even more relevant. In maintaining the integrity of the protective halo around our immune systems, a valuable defense mechanism lies in the heart of the vaccine.
Faizah Shareef is a senior majoring in exercise physiology.