Health Reforms in Youth Education: Combatting the Anti-Vaccination Movement

Vaccinations are a significant achievement in the advancement of public health, aiding in diminishing the detrimental effects induced by harmful pathogens. However, information on certain websites might lead one to believe the contrary: that vaccines are ineffective, unnatural, and even dangerous. Such strong objections to mass vaccination campaigns are disseminated by the anti-vaccination movements currently active in the United States and other regions of the world.

As many people turn to the Internet for health information, it is critical to recognize that user-generated content from anti-vaccine supporters directly impact patient medical decisions. Underscoring the pervasiveness of anti-vaccination rhetoric is the reality that awareness of the importance of vaccines is not as high as extensive scientific research would suggest.

According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), vaccinations saved the lives of an estimated 732,000 American children and prevented 322 million cases of childhood illnesses from 1994 to 2014. The American Academy of Pediatrics also cited that most childhood vaccines are 90-99% effective in preventing disease. Despite the abundance of research conducted on the value and effects of vaccines, public health discourse is still laden with criticisms from anti-vaccination groups, especially within legal frameworks that propose mandating vaccines like the flu shot.

In 2008, New Jersey’s Public Health Council issued a compulsory flu vaccination for all children before entering preschools and daycare centers. Parental outrage manifested in heated protests with slogans like “My Child, My Choice” and “Parent Power.” In light of the evident challenges in taking legal action, proponents of vaccinations should direct advocacy efforts by pushing for a higher education in health during primary and secondary schooling.

The number of parents that are reluctant to vaccinate their children is increasing year after year due to the rising concern of the aftereffects of being vaccinated. However, what parents tend to overlook are the serious consequences of not having their child vaccinated. While vaccinations like the measles, mumps, rubella, and several others are already required, there are many optional yet highly recommended vaccines that many parents feel are unnecessary.

According to studies that were published by the Public Health Reports, among the parents who deny the importance of these recommended vaccinations, 63% say that they are scared of the side effects that will result in getting vaccinated and 78% of them claim that their children already get too many vaccinations.

Due to such high numbers in the denial of vaccinations by parents, there is an urgent need to dispute many of these misconceptions. The most efficient way of getting the truth about vaccinations to parents would be through the children themselves. Although children are the ones receiving the vaccinations, they themselves do not know what is being injected into their bodies, nor do they know what the vaccination can prevent or protect them from. A reinforcement of the importance of vaccinations throughout a child’s primary and secondary education is crucial in order to combat the growing anti-vaccination movement. Educating youth will give them the knowledge to understand the need for vaccines, which will hopefully begin to resolve misconceptions promulgated by the anti-vaccination movement.

 

Serena Chow can be reached at schow@wesleyan.edu and Chaiyeon Lee can be reached at clee03@wesleyan.edu. 

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