Vaccines in K-12 Children Decreasing


Annalee Gorman, Mirada Staff

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 2001, the number of children in the U.S who haven’t received vaccinations has quadrupled. A recent trend in opting out of vaccinations has spurred controversy over the effectiveness of immunization.

This upswing created communities of those who are more susceptible to sickness and revived diseases eliminated by vaccinations. The immunizations protect against 14 deadly diseases, and the rise of unvaccinated kids has led to the spread of diseases like measles and whooping cough.

From January to March of this year, 387 cases of measles have been reported over 15 states, breaking the record of total cases reported in the past year. The CDC warns against opting out of immunizations, explaining that measles will infect 90 percent of unimmunized people who breathe in the virus.

“I think everyone should have their own say in whether they want to be vaccinated,” said sophomore Lucy Prieto. “They know that they are protected even if other people who don’t get vaccinated are sick.” 

Several states allow parents to opt out of vaccinations for religious or philosophical beliefs, safety concerns, or a lack of information from a doctor. This change in state legislation resulted in a two percent increase in unvaccinated children.

“Vaccine hesitancy” has become more prevalent in society today and allows parents to make their decisions about health. 

A study conducted by Chephra McKee and Kristin Bohannon of the Texas Tech University School of Health and Pharmacy showed that 77 percent of hesitant parents reported having concerns about the types of vaccinations.

Their research showed that some parents believe it’s beneficial to contract certain diseases and use natural immunity as a prevention method. Others believe that inserting chemicals to fight diseases causes defects or they feel that the diseases which vaccinations prevent are unnecessary.

Through social media and acquaintances, information becomes less accurate, and making an informed decision can be overwhelming. Making an educated decision can make discerning between the information easier and address safety concerns.

Rumors of the harmful nature of vaccinations have not been scientifically proven yet. One common myth is that vaccines cause autism.

Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon published in a prestigious medical journal, “The Lancet” claimed that autism can be a result from vaccines.

However, his study was debunked by numerous studies, his entry was removed from “The Lancet,” and Wakefield lost his medical license.

The rising fear of vaccines creates a health risk for all. The American Journal of Epidemiology explains that many unvaccinated people tend to live in the same areas. This results in a community of people unprotected against disease.

If polio or another illness were to infect an unvaccinated person living in an unvaccinated community, the disease can potentially spread to nearly everyone living there. 

The decline of deadly diseases or highly contagious ones like whooping cough can be attributed to vaccinations according to the CDC. A vaccine works as a practice test for antibodies, preparing the body to produce the correct cells to fight off illness.

By producing correct antibodies, the body can fight off disease without any knowledge of it being there, and not causing an infection upon injection.

 The inactivated virus allows the body to quickly reproduce the antibodies from memory and boost the immune system cells.

However, the vaccine does not act instantly. It can take days for the body to produce the correct antibodies needed to fight sickness. Research by the World Health Organization shows that receiving the vaccine allows for a 98 percent effectiveness rating.

Recently, teens have been looking for ways to get themselves vaccinated if their parents opted them out in previous years. An unvaccinated 18 year-old kid was kicked off of Reddit for creating a thread asking about how to get immunized without consent from a parent or guardian.

Amid breakouts of deadly disease, many are utilizing social media as an information source and are questioning their anti-vax parent’s decisions. The vaccination fear has taken over the internet, and created an awareness movement about the importance of health.

At the age of 16, teens can make confidential appointments with their doctors, but until they are adults, medical decisions cannot be made without a parent or guardian present. As a result, anti-vaxxer children are fact checking their parents to ensure that the decision is educated and not based on incorrect studies.

“I think having an open conversation with parents is important,” said junior Emily Hegland. “If the kids go behind their back to get vaccinated, they are entitled to make their own choice and challenge their parents’ reasoning.”