In Virginia, the House of Representatives is trying to pass a law that students need thirteen more vaccines and a required flu shot to attend public school. Many lives that have been lost throughout history could have been saved with a now controversial tool: vaccination.
Vaccines began in 1796 with a huge outbreak of smallpox. Edward Jenner developed the first successful vaccine. He noticed that people who had cowpox before did not catch smallpox. The rest is history.
Vaccines work by teaching the body to fight against harmful pathogens in the body. According to “US News”, 43% of adults got a flu shot for the 2019-2020 flu season. Vaccines have been able to prevent many diseases, such as polio, measles, mumps, and rubella.
So why is there a growing movement across the globe to stop vaccinations?
Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor, investigated the link between autism and the MMR vaccine. He released a report that claimed to show that the vaccine could cause autism. He was eventually charged with scientific fraud; it turns out, the information he provided was false.
Larry Cook is an advocate for natural living and the founder of “Stop Mandatory Vaccinations”.
“Vaccines do not confer immunity,” Cook said. “ [They] do not stop the spread of disease, do not stop death, never saved us from ‘disease’, fail on a regular basis, cause a variety of health problems like ear infections, asthma and allergies, cause injuries such as seizures and autism, and cause death.”
Tykira Mims, a Commissioner Fellow with the Tennessee Department of Health and Human Services, disagrees. Mims has a bachelors in World History from Stoneman University and a Masters in Public Health from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
“I think they’re one of the best things to improve our health,” Mims said. “They’ve been used to save millions of lives.”
Despite the rise of the anti-vaccine movement, most middle school students believe that vaccines are necessary.
“Vaccines can be helpful for people,” Kira Welsch, a seventh grade student, said. “People could get sick without them.”
Lilliana Byrns, another seventh grade student, agrees.
“Vaccines are not the most pleasant,” Byrns said. “People should still get them. Vaccines are very important. They prevent disease and illness that could be deadly.”
Cook, and many anti-vaccine groups, do not agree that vaccines save lives. They also do not believe that “herd immunity” is real. Herd immunity means that if a large enough percentage of people are vaccinated, it can even help protect those who can’t get a vaccine. It helps limit the spread of the disease.
“Through the magic of marketing and manipulation, the liability-free vaccine industry has coined the phrase ‘herd immunity’ as an excuse to force its ineffective products onto humanity through legislative measures,” Cook said.
According to “Healio”, a medical news journal, only 55% of Americans will actually vaccinate their children.
“That’s too low,” Welsch said. “For the children who don’t get vaccines, they could get sick more easily.”
Mims feels that herd immunity has played an important role in eradicating certain illnesses.
“Because we’ve had immunity through vaccines, we no longer see cases of many vaccine-preventable diseases,” she said.
Some religions also forbid vaccinations. Christian Scientists, for example, believe vaccines are forbidden. Some Muslim countries believe vaccines can contain pork products, which are prohibited.
“If [a person’s] religion prohibits vaccines, then it’s fine [to not get vaccinated],” Welsch said.
“Those are usually religions that believe in safe healing and new medical treatments,” Mims said. “People do use religious exemptions instead of philosophical exemptions.”
In Tennessee, when students start Kindergarten, they are required to have a certain number of vaccines to attend public schools. There are regulations for attending seventh grade and even college.
Not getting vaccinated can have serious consequences. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, annually over 3 million people die, half of those being children.
In New York, a recent Measles outbreak affected over 1,200 people.
“Some groups are more at risk for having serious complications from these diseases,” Mims said. “Had the community been adequately immunized, the impact of this outbreak could’ve been negated.”
Byrns agrees that these sorts of outbreaks should not happen.
“This goes to show that vaccines are important, especially to children who don’t have a very good immune system,” she said.
Cook believes that vaccines don’t provide immunity.
“TH2 humoral immune system tags antibodies to the antigens so that the body knows what to do the next time there is an encounter,” Cook said. “Thus, the child will never experience the dramatic immune response again – what we call ‘immunity’.”
According to Cook, this explains the need for so-called “booster shots”.
“This is why repeat booster shots are required and also why children who have been vaccinated have outbreaks,” Cook said. “They are not immune, and never were.”
Dating back to the 1998 study, people have argued about whether vaccines cause disorders like autism and sudden infant death syndrome.
“No, [vaccines don’t cause autism],” Welsch said. “Vaccines are [used] to help from getting sick not cause sickness.”
“Vaccines don’t cause autism,” Mims said. “There’s no evidence that vaccines are linked to any chronic diseases.”
Although Tennessee, and many other states, require students to be vaccinated to attend school, not all students believe this is the best policy.
“I feel that this is a little wrong,” Byrns said. “Not everyone has the money or insurance for the proper vaccines.”
“It’s not always good,” she said. “Some people could react negatively.”
Mims believes that it is a good idea to be vaccinated to be eligible to go to school.
“Children in Tennessee are required to be vaccinated,” Mims said. “If children are not vaccinated properly, they are not permitted to attend public school.”
Most doctors believe that the recent flu and measles outbreaks were caused by low immunization rates. Herd immunity, they argue, can help people who are not immunized by preventing the spread.
“The measles outbreaks that we’ve seen in the U.S. were related to low immunization rates,” Mims said. “The less people are immunized as a whole, the more likely you’ll see outbreaks in a community.”
Cook rebuffs this idea.
“The death rate for measles had already dropped 99.96% prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine, and this was due to plumbing, sanitation, better food storage, refrigeration, water purification and the ending of child labor, among other reasons,” Cook said.
The bigger problem to Cook, however, is that the government requires people to get vaccinated in certain cases.
“The bottom line is that I oppose any and all forced medical procedures on the population, for any reason whatsoever, whether considered safe or not safe,” Cook said. “Mandated medical procedures on the population is a core violation of bodily autonomy and should never be tolerated in a free society.”
In the end, the key to making smart decisions about vaccinations is getting informed and using credible, research-backed sources.
“There’s a lot of false information about vaccines,” Mims said. “There are a lot of credible sources that people can go to, but they need to be careful.”
This story was originally published on The Sequoyah Scribe on April 27, 2020.