Opinion: Destroying anti-vax propaganda is crucial in keeping the public educated

Vaccine. Photo courtesy of torange.biz.

There has been a recent trend that could have potentially dangerous consequences for public health. It’s not smoking, drinking or even vaping – all of which raise potential and probable health concerns.

It’s anti-vaccination propaganda.

Anti-vaccination propaganda has been plastered all over social media, convincing miseducated parents that vaccines are bad for their children and leading to a surge in diseases like measles that are easily prevented by vaccines.

Recently, social media platforms like Pinterest and Facebook have been limiting anti-vaccination propaganda by removing the capability to search vaccine related terms. The platforms hope to decrease the amount of misinformation circulating on social media about vaccines – regardless of their medical accuracy – but some believe that removing vaccine related media is a negative move.

I think that this monitoring of anti-vaccination propaganda is necessary in order to maintain an educated and well-informed public. Because of misleading and, frankly, completely false claims, many believe vaccines cause developmental disorders such as autism. This information is false and has been disproven time and time again. Vaccines do not cause disorders or diseases, and if you have experienced disease symptoms after a vaccination like the flu vaccine, it’s likely you were already harboring the virus beforehand.

Vaccines are safe, go through multiple rounds of testing and are basically one of the only ways we can prevent and eventually eradicate dangerous diseases. An argument many use as a reason to not vaccinate their children is the high cost of vaccinations. However, it’s probably much cheaper to pay for a vaccine than to pay for the medical treatments your child will have to endure if they get a disease like measles because you didn’t vaccinate them.

Any child who comes in contact with someone who is unvaccinated is in danger of being exposed to a disease that could have been prevented. If you are knowingly putting your unvaccinated child into an environment with other children – who are susceptible to any disease your child may carry, you’re endangering the lives of these other children.

As people, we have a duty to protect those around us, and placing an unvaccinated child into an environment is essentially a ticking time bomb for disease. Many diseases that can be vaccinated against are deadly to children who have inferior immune systems. In fact, mothers who have not been vaccinated are not providing the antibodies to their babies through breast milk that occur from gaining adaptive immunity through vaccines, which provides evidence for why babies need to be vaccinated.

Without vaccines, diseases like polio and smallpox would still persist in high numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), before the measles vaccine, almost every person in the U.S. had measles, and now most doctors have never even seen a case of measles.

Stopping vaccination has dire consequences – as seen in Japan in the 1980s. The use of the pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine lowered the number of infected cases by so much that Japan stopped pushing for vaccination in 1974. That year, 80 percent of Japanese children were being vaccinated and only 393 cases of whooping cough were diagnosed and zero pertussis related deaths occurred.

When the rate of vaccination decreased until only 10 percent of children were vaccinated in 1979, there were 13,000 cases of pertussis and 41 cases of pertussis related death. In the span of five years, the reduction of vaccines clearly negatively impacted public health.  

Vaccines are a safe and effective way to ensure that your children are protected from deadly diseases and are protecting their peers. How would you feel if your child got a preventable disease, or spread it to their friends and became ill or died because you chose not to do something easy to protect their health?

Anti-vaccination propaganda is ridiculously dangerous, and getting your health information from Facebook and not consulting a trained medical professional is probably not the smartest idea. Trust well-researched, well-confirmed and well-distinguished scientific facts instead of relying on social media. Destroying anti-vaccination propaganda is crucial in maintaining a healthy and educated public, and isn’t a joke to be taken lightly.

Facebook, Pinterest and other social media outlets that are limiting the spread of anti-vaccination propaganda are doing good by reinforcing and supporting correct scientific material to an otherwise uneducated public.
If you want to learn more about vaccines and how they help stop diseases, check out the CDC government page or do some more thorough and reliable internet searching through Google Scholar.

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