Vaccines have been a popularly debated topic since they became a standard in medical practice. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that children receive twenty eight doses of ten different vaccines between birth and the age of six (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Currently, there are no federal laws in the United States that mandate that all children receive vaccinations. All fifty states do, however, require that students receive certain vaccinations before entering public schools; the majority offer exemptions for medical or religious reasons and a handful of states allows exemptions for philosophical reasons (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Proponents for vaccination requirements argue that because vaccines have been proven to save lives, do not contain harmful amounts of dangerous ingredients, and carry very little risk of adverse effects, they should be mandatory. Though vaccines seem like an obvious choice for many people, a significant number of others feel that vaccines are more harmful than helpful and should, therefore, not be obligatory. They feel that the risk for adverse effects and the dangerous ingredients are not worth taking on and that the government has no right to make medical decisions for American citizens.
The main argument in favor of vaccination requirements is the life-saving property of vaccines. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most childhood vaccines are between ninety and ninety-nine percent effective in presenting the diseases they protect against (“Vaccine Safety: The Facts”). Such high prevention rates are certainly an obvious benefit. Vaccines also save millions of children from preventable diseases across the world. The United Nations Foundation’s partner organization [email protected] reports that vaccines save two and a half million children every year from the diseases they prevent against; the measles vaccine alone has decreased the number of childhood deaths from measles by almost three quarters (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that between 1994 and 2014, more than seven hundred thousand American children were saved from death while more than three hundred million were saved from preventable diseases thanks to vaccinations (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). The sheer number of lives saved is astounding and make a very convincing argument for vaccination requirements.
Those who oppose vaccinations often cite moral and ethical implications and the unsafe ingredients that are present in vaccines. Some vaccines contain ingredients like thimerosal, aluminum, and formaldehyde, which are certainly dangerous if consumed in large quantities. However, vaccines do not contain high enough quantities of these substances to pose any real danger to the health of the children who receive them. Studies have shown that children are exposed to more aluminum in infant formula and breast milk than they are exposed to with vaccines (Heyworth). They are also exposed to these chemicals regularly later in their lives, not just in the first year of life. Research reveals that children are exposed to more bacteria, toxins, viruses, and other harmful substances in one normal day than they are when getting vaccinated (Heyworth). In addition, the only vaccination that still contains thimerosal, or mercury, in vaccines for children under the age of six is the inactivated flu vaccine (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Vaccines also go through rigorous tests and trials before being approved for use. The Food and Drug Administration requires up to ten years or more of testing for all vaccines before they are licensed and used; they are then monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that vaccines and the ingredients used in them are safe (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Reliable research shows that vaccines are safe for the children and adults who get them.
Another common argument used by those against vaccinations is that a negative effect of vaccines is an adverse reaction. The most commonly reported side effect of vaccines is a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and it occurs in only one per million vaccinations (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). However, these reactions are not incredibly common and the average patient does not need to be concerned about having them. The Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN, Sanjay Gupta, said, “you are [one hundred] times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine that protects you against measles.” (Gupta). Many people who believe that vaccines come with adverse effects also believe that vaccines cause autism in those who receive them. However, Dr. Gupta strongly disagrees. “Studies,” he says, “including a meta-analysis of 1.2 million children this past December, show no link between vaccines and autism.” (Gupta). Other common claims about the adverse effects of vaccines are that the flu vaccine causes Bell’s palsy and that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine causes Type 1 diabetes. According to Ellen Clayton, a professor of Pediatrics and Law at Vanderbilt Law School, none of those claims are based in fact or should be taken seriously (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). In addition, despite assertions that combination vaccines are more likely to cause a negative reaction and
Despite these arguments, though, there are still a significant number of people who are against vaccinations. The most common reason for those who are anti-vaccine is the risk of dangerous and sometimes fatal effects they could have. The Centers for Disease Control estimates the risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction to be about one in every million (“Possible Side-effects from Vaccines”). Vaccines can come with other serious side-effects as well. According to the same report by the Centers for Disease Control, one in about twenty thousand babies in the United States experiences bowel blockage that can require hospitalization as a direct result of the rotavirus vaccination (“Possible Side-effects from Vaccines.”). While they do note that rarity of such a reaction has made it harder to discern causation, the Center for Disease Control also acknowledges that the DTap vaccine, used in the prevention of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, may be associated with “long term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, and permanent brain damage.” (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Other studies cited by the Centers for Disease Control report that there is a small possibility that Guillain-Barrѐ Syndrome could be associated with the flu vaccine and that pneumonia can be caused by the vaccine for chickenpox, both of which occur in one to two million people vaccinated (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Other information provided by the National Vaccine Information Center that there may be a link between vaccines and disabilities like asthma, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and autism (“Should Any Vaccination Be Required for Children?”).
Another reason some people are against the required vaccination of children is that they contain ingredients that can be harmful to those who receive them. Thimerosal, an organic compound of mercury, can be found in trace amounts in several adult vaccines and one flu vaccine for children. Some physicians believe that aluminum is linked to autism and it is widely acknowledged that excess amounts of aluminum in the human body can cause damage to the nervous system (“Should Any Vaccination Be Required for Children?”). Other vaccines contain formaldehyde. This is a carcinogen that can cause side effects like coma, convulsions, cardiac impairment, central nervous system depression, and even death (“Vaccine Ingredients- A Comprehensive Guide”). The DTap vaccine contains several ingredients like glutaraldehyde, cetyltrimethylammonium bromide, and 2-phenoxyethanol, which can all be harmful to the human body in excess. Glutaraldehyde is a compound that is most often used to disinfect dental and medical equipment and can cause respiratory issues like asthma while cetyltrimethylammonium bromide is used as an antiseptic, causing irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system (“Vaccine Ingredients- A Comprehensive Guide”). 2-phenoxyethanol is an antibacterial that irritates the eyes and skin and can cause cardiac failure, convulsions, headaches, kidney damage or failure, shock, and even death (“Vaccine Ingredients- A Comprehensive Guide”).
Another common argument used by opponents of required vaccination is that the government has no right to intervene in citizens’ personal medical choices. Many agree that medical decisions for children should be made by their parents and caregivers. The National Vaccine Information Center’s co-founder, Barbara Low Fisher, said, “If the State can tag, track down and force citizens against their will to be injected with biological products of known and unknown toxicity today, there will be no limit on which individual freedoms the State can take away in the name of the greater good tomorrow.” (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Forceful vaccinations could set a scary and unfavorable precedent in the United States. Ron Paul, former United States Representative for the state of Texas wrote, in an article called ‘Government Vaccines- Bad Policy, Bad Medicine’, “Intimately personal medical decisions should not be made by government… Freedom over one’s physical person is the most basic freedom of all, and people in a free society should be sovereign over their own bodies. When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we in essence accept that the state owns our bodies.” (Paul). Many people agree that body autonomy is an incredibly important right that should not be infringed upon by anyone, not even the government. People want to be in control of what happens to their bodies, which is not an unreasonable desire at all. Furthermore, government-required vaccinations would infringe upon religious freedoms protected by the constitution. A number of religions oppose vaccines and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to deny them. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). Additional rulings by the Supreme Court mandated that state and local governments were unable to infringe upon the religious freedoms of its citizens. Amish families do not think all vaccines are necessary and worry that certain ones may have a negative effect on their immune systems while the Universal Family Church feels that the decision to vaccinate children lies in the power of the child’s parents. Similarly, the Church of Illumination stated that, “The teachings of the Church unequivocally affirm that injections of vaccines and inoculations are a violation of these biblical teachings… Immunizations and vaccinations are a form of blood pollution because they have devastating effects on the regeneration of the sol that each Church member seeks to attain.” (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”). With so many religious institutions that look unfavorably upon vaccinations, it would be unconstitutional to mandate that every child receive them.
Though vaccines have been called one of the greatest health developments of the twentieth century (“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”), many are against vaccinations at all, let alone mandatory ones. Some feel that the dangerous ingredients and potential side effects are too much of a risk, in addition to the notion that the government should not be able to make our medical decisions for us. Still, proponents of vaccinations believe that the risk of side effects is minimal, the ingredients are not present in harmful amounts, and that the life-saving properties of vaccines make them an obvious choice. With personal body autonomy and the medical well-being of children involved, it is likely to remain a hotly contested debate.
Gupta, Sanjay. “Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Vaccines are a matter of fact.” CNN. Cable News Network, 05 Feb. 2015. Web. 11 Jun. 2016. <http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/health/measles-gupta-fact/>
Heyworth, Kelley King. “Vaccines: The Reality Behind the Debate”. Parents. Meredith Corporation, n.d. Web. 7 Jul. 2016. <http://www.parents.com/health/vaccines/ controversy/vaccines-the-reality-behind-the-debate/>
Paul, Ron. “Government Vaccines- Bad Policy, Bad Medicine”. International Medical Council on Vaccination. International Medical Council on Vaccination, 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 12 Jul. 2016 <http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2011/10/19/ron-paul-mdgovernment-vaccines-bad-policy-bad-medicine/>
“Possible Side-effects from Vaccines”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 Jul. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm>
“Should Any Vaccines Be Required for Children?”. ProCon.org. ProCon.org, 2016. Web. 13 Jun. 2016. <http://vaccines.procon.org/>
“Vaccine Ingredients- A Comprehensive Guide”. VaxTruth. VaxTruth.org, 15 Aug. 2011. Web. 12 Jun. 2016. <http://vaxtruth.org/2011/08/vaccine-ingredients/>
“Vaccine Safety: The Facts”. American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008. Web. 7 Jul. 2016. <http://www.aap.org>.