Leah Gans | La Jolla Country Day Junior
An increasing number of parents in recent years have been withholding permission for their children to be vaccinated out of fear that vaccines cause autism. While autism diagnoses have become more common, there is no knowing for certain whether the actual number of incidents of autism has increased, or if, with the increasing advances in technology and science, autism has become more easily detected and therefore more frequently diagnosed.
The very recent Measles outbreak in the U.S has made this debate even more relevant. While specific laws vary from state to state, all, generally require children to receive vaccinations against mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and polio prior to entering public or private school. Nevertheless, many states, like California, give parents the right to withhold vaccinations from their children based on their personal beliefs. As the number of people preventing their children from being vaccinated has increased, the likelihood of dangerous outbreaks, like the current measles outbreak, has also grown.
Every local student I spoke to supported vaccinations, and was frustrated by those who did not receive them. TPHS sophomore, Jill commented that “all of these are terrible childhood diseases that used to cause death or suffering for many children. Since the invention of vaccines, the U.S has been able to eradicate most of these diseases among our population. I believe the people opposed to the vaccinations forget how terrible the diseases were.”
CCA freshman Tommy expressed frustration at how many innocent kids are being caught in the middle of this dispute: “There was recently a story in the news about a girl in northern California whose mom would not let her get vaccinated. She was in high school and when measles broke out she had to stay home because it would be too dangerous for her to attend school. She was worried about how much school she was missing and asked her mom if she could get vaccinated, but her mom told her no. I think it’s really sad how misinformed and paranoid parents are today.” CCHS Senior Julia shared these views, but also understood why some parents were concerned: “There is a “problem” without a known cause of autism, and that makes parents anxious that it will affect their children. Because there is so much misinformation out there, and so many people really believe in this anti-vaccine phenomenon, it is an easy trap to fall into.” Julia’s statement is a good description of what is happening in America today.
All parents want is for their children to be healthy, and because they forget how dangerous childhood diseases were, they feel as though they are being safe by avoiding vaccinations. The recent measles outbreak shows the danger of this approach: If enough people opt out of vaccinations, these diseases can and will return. It is easy to understand why the parents of an autistic child might be likely to accept the vaccine theory as the cause of a disability in their child that does not seem to have another explanation, especially considering that autism is often detected based on the same milestones that are typically used for vaccinations (birthdays, grade levels, etc.). Before jumping to conclusions, however, parents need to educate themselves and pay attention to the scientific research. This way, their child won’t be exposed to the much more significant risk of catching a deadly childhood disease.