Why Living Organically Does Not Justify Anti-Vaccination

Vaccines are essential to the well-being of children and the community. Rogelio V. Solis/ AP

Vaccines are essential to the well-being of children and the community. Rogelio V. Solis/ AP

By Emily Tanner

My cousin was only five years old when she contracted the measles, a highly contagious infection that is now rare. It started off as what my aunt and uncle thought was no more than a common cold, but when she developed a persistent fever that spiked at 104 degrees and a ghastly and painful skin rash, her parents became concerned enough to rush her to the hospital. She later developed a life-threatening bacterial pneumonia infection, directly related to the measles, which fortunately responded to antibiotics. The doctor told her parents she was quite lucky to have survived it. I am thankful every day that my cousin, Madison, was able to through this terrible illness.

What bothers me most is the knowledge that this could have been prevented quite easily when Madison was a baby. My aunt and uncle decided together that they were going to forego the standard childhood vaccinations for their children. I cannot help but believe that if they had not made that misguided decision, Madison would not have had to experience a terrifying and life-threatening experience.

The United States is experiencing a measles outbreak that apparently originated at Disneyland in California and has infected over 100 people there and in 10 other states.

It is frustrating for me (especially having a family member suffer from what was thought to be an almost-completely eradicated virus) to hear about more and more children being infected with a virus that would be all but eliminated if parents vaccinated their children.

Before coming to Fordham, I remember having to get multiple vaccinations, including one for meningitis. Upon arriving, I was quite surprised to find that a few of my friends were not vaccinated, obtaining either medical or religious exemptions from receiving vaccines. I did not understand then how you could come to college without receiving the meningitis vaccine, seeing as it is incredibly contagious and can be fatal.

Since 2011, the number of families who obtain waivers for their children in order to be excused from vaccinations has increased steadily. I remain convinced, however, that children should be vaccinated before starting school.

Take my cousin Madison, for example. At the age of five, she was enrolled in kindergarten and could have infected other unvaccinated children, as well as the very small percentage for whom the vaccine is ineffective.

Much of the current anti-vaccination movement is related to one primary concern — autism. A British medical researcher published a study claiming a direct link between the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) and autism, but the study was later retracted and deemed fraudulent by the British Medical Journal. Despite the dismissal of the evidence, many continue to have doubts.

Before entering school, children should be completely vaccinated.

What scares me is the growing movement to pass on vaccinating children, even school-age children. Why should kids like Madison have to suffer from something preventable like the measles, and put other children at risk, when modern medicine has developed a vaccine that is known to be extremely effective in prevention?

While many people believe that it is conservative religious groups that make up the population of people refusing to be vaccinated, this isn’t exactly the case. Studies have found that the groups of people with the highest growing rates of opting out of vaccination are kids coming from upper-middle class to upper class families, both politically conservative and liberal, who are college-educated.

This is what I do not understand. Many supporters of the anti-vaccination movement ride on the popular wave of eating organically and keeping harmful chemicals out of the body, which I am all for. What I do not comprehend, is the point of putting your children and other children at risk for the sake of “living naturally.” You can make the choice to eat strictly organic fruits and veggies, get plenty of exercise and fresh air, abstain from unhealthy foods and try all the homeopathic remedies that you want, but at the end of the day you have to face the facts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made evident that “most childhood vaccines are 90-99 percent effective in preventing disease.” These are numbers that are factual, and children’s lives are being saved every day because of these vaccines. So, what if (crazy idea), we ate well, treated our bodies right and vaccinated our kids? The two can coexist together harmoniously.

This cohesion is something that many people need to recognize before they opt out of vaccinating their children. I am all for eating food that is free range and organic and keeping possibly harmful chemicals out of my body, but I do not understand the point of putting your children and other children at risk for the sake of “living naturally.” It is unsafe, it is dangerous, and to be honest, it is unethical.

Emily Tanner, FCRH ’16, is an English major from Syracuse, New York.


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