Vaccination is a matter of fact, not debate

The anti-vaccine movement denounces scientific progress and the concept of evidence based discussion

Ash argues the anti-vaccine movement damages the health of  the population.
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Typically, evidence is required when making a claim—but not when it comes to the anti-vaccine movement. 
 
The debate on the efficacy and safety of vaccines has been endless and, more importantly, unnecessary. When considering it’s been repeatedly established that vaccines work within the scientific community, anti-vaccine movements set an inherently dangerous precedent.
 
A vaccine is the injection of a disease’s causative agent, which results in the formation of antibodies without actually giving rise to the disease itself. These antibodies serve to protect you from becoming infected when a virus later tries to infiltrate your immune system and cause bodily harm. 
 
The validity of vaccines has been proven time and again through the eradication of past epidemics. For example, smallpox was a virus that caused a horrific number of deaths as recent as the early 1900s. Through vaccine administration, the World Health Assembly officially declared it eradicated 1980
 
Our generation hasn’t experienced the fear and terror that surrounded smallpox, making the process of getting vaccinated easy to write off. But three out of 10 people who got smallpox died from it, and those who survived usually sustained severe scarring. 
 
The anti-vaccination movement was built on the foundation that the ability to merely have an opinion is enough to establish its legitimacy. It perpetuates every opinion as equally rational despite refuting evidence presented against it, and is subject to consequences extending beyond making a choice to be vaccinated. 
 
People who have  a compromised immune system or who lack the ability to mount an adequate immune response to an infectious agent, may not be able to receive certain vaccinations. These are people such as the elderly, pregnant women, infants, and those who are HIV positive. 
 
Their immune systems are disadvantaged, thus the causative agent in vaccines can lead to them developing the disease they were supposed to be protected from. However, if everyone who’s healthy enough to get vaccinated does, then those who have a compromised imune system can avoid contracting the disease from those around them.
 
When a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child on the basis that it’s their choice, it fails to hold logical or compassionate reasoning. Choosing not to vaccinate your child can result in the death of someone else’s. 
 
If this makes you feel uncomfortable, good. It should. These are the dark consequences of the anti-vaccine movement, and they need to be acknowledged.
 
With the scientific reasoning behind vaccines long established, examining the ethical issues of its protest today tips the scales in favour of vaccines even more. 
 
A common anti-vaccine argument is that vaccines cause autism. Having established that vaccines are key to the prevention of devastating diseases, a foul implication comes along with anti-vaxxers using autism as reason for not vaccinating their children: they’d rather their child suffer illness or death of a preventable disease than dare to have autism. 
 
This adds a layer of falsehood to the anti-vaccine argument which is furthermore discriminatory.  In today’s society, the opinion of an immunologist with 30 years of experience is held to the same level of esteem as a mommy blogger who embraces the ill-informed musings of Jenny McCarthy. 
 
When placed in contrast with one another, this comparison is objectively 
ludicrous—but unfortunately, it’s the reality we must confront to create change against the anti-vaccine movement. 
 
Anti-vaxxers were named a top threat to global health in 2019 by the World Health Organization (WHO)—and for good reason. This is a damaging movement that’s spiralled out of control, fueled by misinformation and pseudoscience. It places the lives of our society’s most vulnerable in jeopardy. 
 
Schools have started taking action against anti-vaccine ideals. Last Tuesday, Region of Waterloo Public Health officials issued approximately 6,000 suspensions on the grounds of students not having been vaccinated. 
 
Though this is certainly a valiant effort to combat the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, it shouldn’t have to come to this. 
 
This amount of energy shouldn’t be expended on something that has a definitive answer and been repeatedly validated through scientific evidence. 
 
There’s a reason why experts exist—they’re the most knowledgeable in their field of work, and, as a result, are likelier to have the most well-informed opinion regarding the issue. 
 
We should listen to these people, understand what they have to say, and keep it with us. More importantly, we must not amplify the voice of those who choose to speak before they listen. 
 
Ashuthi Kanneganti is a fourth-year nursing student.

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