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Debunking Vaccination Myths

Natasha Arendt

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As flu season arrives, so does vaccination season and the controversy surrounding it. Getting certain vaccines is required by Arkansas state law in order to attend school, but sometimes exemptions are made if a parent obtains exemption for their child due to “moral, religious, or philosophical beliefs” against vaccines. Those who are exempt could be removed from school during an outbreak of disease and are not as well protected from illness, but suffer no other repercussions.

The flu vaccine is required in early childcare facilities, but not high school. The Center for Disease Control reports that about 12,000 to 56,000 people die from the flu each year in the United States. Despite the majority of medical professionals recommending vaccines such as the seasonal flu vaccine, many children and adults go without, such as junior Aryonnah Briggs.

“I used to get vaccinated when I was little, and I think I got sick a couple times from the vaccination itself,” Briggs said. “Then, my parents didn’t get me vaccinated, and I didn’t get sick, so it just made me skewed towards not getting one.”

Feeling mildly sick is an uncommon, but real symptom for people who get the flu vaccine, because of the body’s immune response. However, for some, it still causes an aversion toward getting vaccinated.

“[My parents] are really against vaccinations, and I don’t really have a strong opinion on it,” Briggs said. “I totally get why some people get vaccinated, some people may not have a strong immune system. If you’re more towards [getting a vaccination] then yes, you should get a vaccination, it just depends on the person.”

Anatomy teacher Janet Watson disagrees and recommends that everyone should get vaccinated against the flu and other diseases.

“I would definitely recommend people get vaccinated, because we’re seeing an increase of whooping cough, measles, and preventable childhood diseases,” she said. “Vaccines are not dangerous.”

Many common reasons for anti-vaccination movements include safety concerns about autism and vaccine ingredients such as formaldehyde and aluminum. However, it has been proven by numerous scientific studies that vaccines do not cause autism. The amounts of “harmful” ingredients in vaccines are so small they do not harm the body–there is more formaldehyde found naturally in our bodies than in the vaccine, according to vaccines.gov. Vaccines with thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, are uncommon, and even so, the thimerosal used does not cause mercury poisoning and is in such a small amount it doesn’t adversely affect the body. Any sick feelings are caused by the body building immunity, not by adverse reactions to the vaccine’s ingredients.

“I have never been sick from a vaccine, and neither have my kids,” Watson said. “However, I can tell you as a mom, you always worried because you didn’t like to inflict pain on them, and ‘What if they had an adverse reaction to the vaccine?’ but I had to just keep thinking about how kids used to die of the measles and used to die from whooping cough, and that would be negligence on my part to not prevent that if I could.”

As a junior who occasionally gets a flu shot, junior Jose Sanchez agrees that vaccination is an important safety measure against disease.

“In order to prevent an epidemic happening, I’d suggest that everybody get vaccinated, because a disease can spread, and eventually cause harm to people,” Sanchez said. “I would say [my parents somewhat] share this view. My parents relied on traditional medicines and not vaccines, but sometimes they’d let me get a vaccine.”

Herd immunity is the effect of the majority of the population getting vaccinated, which makes the disease less likely to spread. Those who are vaccinated inadvertently protect those who are not by being less likely to contract the disease in the first place. Even if the unvaccinated become ill, they can still spread the disease before they begin showing symptoms and realize they’re ill.

“I had a friend who didn’t get her children vaccinated, and the only reason she didn’t was because she said, ‘I’m going to take advantage of herd immunity, I’ll let other people expose their children to the vaccines, and then mine will be safe because other people won’t get the disease,” Watson said.

However, if the majority of the population did this, fewer people would be protected, aiding the spread of disease.

“In states that have more lenient laws [regarding vaccination], you can see the [effects of people not getting vaccinated],” Watson said. “Who are you going to listen to about your child’s health? A TV anchor person, a Hollywood celebrity, or a medical professional? Doctors get their children vaccinated. A vaccine is not going to give you the disease.”

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