By Jacey Gould

I tend to stay alert and keep up to date about public health matters, because (and this might seem obvious) human beings are part of our planet’s ecosystem. This is why I am so concerned about harmful trends regarding health and wellness.

We can’t ignore the public health threats that are going on right under our noses. Many of these threats have had to do with the rallies against immunizations. Yes, I am talking about the Anti-Vax movement.

People have been skeptical of vaccines ever since they were invented, and whether due to religious beliefs or health concerns, the skepticism is only getting worse.

Vaccines have been around for over a thousand years. Although many people think that vaccines started in the 18th century, the very first evidence of inoculation dates back to 10th-century China.

Modern resistance against vaccines has been largely prevalent among certain religious groups, such as the Orthodox Jewish community. Another example is many Christians, who believe that vaccination is immoral because the cells for many vaccines are obtained from abortions. According to an article from Christianity Today, many parents hold this point of view:

“‘The use of fetal cells in vaccine study and creation is one of the primary reasons we do not vaccinate,’ said Mandy Reynvaan, a mother of five in Oregon, where a measles outbreak has flared over the past few months. ‘The methods used to obtain these cells are horrifying.’”

A major trend against vaccines happened around the 1970s and 1980s when some parents in the United Kingdom decided not to vaccinate their children after reading a report that the pertussis vaccination caused reactions in the body neurologically.

Pertussis soon began to spread around the country until a report was released that reassured the public of the benefits and safety of the vaccine. This helped the vaccine’s reputation and brought the number of vaccines back to where it had been before the scare.

One of the key players in the most recent Anti-Vax movement is a researcher named Andrew Wakefield. In 1998, he published a study in which he claimed that autism in children was linked to the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Wakefield’s methods, research, and conclusions were not sound, and more studies were published proving that his conclusions were incorrect. However, many parents came across Wakefield’s research and immediately spread it to those they knew. Thus began the widespread modern distrust of the MMR vaccine.

The U.K. Medical Registry later revoked Wakefield’s license to practice medicine due to his unethical research. Even though Wakefield had been proven wrong, the lie that “vaccines cause autism” had already spread across Europe and the United States.

Another concern regarding vaccines has been mercury levels. In 2001, thimerosal (a preservative that was used in vaccines) was suggested to be potentially unsafe and possibly show a link between vaccines and autism. Although it turns out there was no substantial evidence of a connection between thimerosal and autism, this preservative is now no longer used in vaccines.

According to Forbes, measles have returned to the United States since their eradication in 2000, and this year marks the largest number of cases since then. This is because the Anti-Vax movement is spreading even faster than the measles.

There is proof that the vaccine against measles is over 90 percent effective, but many parents seem to be gullible when it comes to whose opinion they trust about this topic. The danger with the Anti-Vax movement is that it is based on half-baked research and seemingly-well-intentioned parents. The people who write anti-vax propaganda know how to word it to convince people to listen to them, and here’s proof of this from the National Center for Biotechnology Information:

“Online anti-vaccination authors use numerous tactics to further their agendas. These tactics include, but are not limited to, skewing science, shifting hypotheses, censoring opposition, attacking critics, claiming to be ‘pro-safe vaccines,’ and not ‘anti-vaccine,’ claiming that vaccines are toxic or unnatural, and more [42]. Not only are these tactics deceitful and dishonest, they are also effective on many parents.”

In late 2014 and early 2015, California’s public health department found that a large outbreak of measles was occurring, the source of which was an infected child who had visited Disneyland while contagious. People from other states who visited the theme park caught measles from this case, causing them to bring the disease to their home states.

The well-organized Anti-Vax movement is causing chaos among parents and children all around the world. With the rise of rumors about inoculation, parents believe they have the right to choose not to vaccinate since it is their child, but their choice affects everyone. Mainly, it puts other kids at risk, especially those who cannot get vaccines due to certain health conditions.

One example of this is children who have to take immunosuppressants for a heart condition. These children cannot be vaccinated because their immune systems are too weak. Parents of such children are very worried about their kids due to the rise of the Anti-Vax movement, and they beg for Anti-Vax parents to consider the health of weaker children and to vaccinate their kids. Not vaccinating your child when his or her body would benefit from vaccines is being blind to one’s privilege and resources.

The bottom line is this: autism is not caused by vaccines, and vaccines are safe and effective. This has been proven many times. Nevertheless, the anti-vax trend is still becoming more popular.

If you still object to vaccines, ask yourself: Would you rather have a child who lives with autism, or would you rather have a child with a harmful disease that you could have prevented?