A recent outbreak of measles raises health alarms, Californians were caught in a national crossfire of controversy over a new trend against vaccinating children. Thanks to relatively lenient laws, California had been stunned as over 100 residents have contracted diseases that immunizations had rendered almost unheard of in contemporary America. In response, a 2012 law, designed to keep children vaccinated, forced parents seeking exceptions to receive counseling and a signature from doctors or other health care professionals. Pushing back, a strident “anti-vax” movement, which has attracted the attention of politicians since the past decade, was developed largely in response to concerns that the ingredients of many popular vaccines could contribute to autism, a fear that has been completely debunked. Although California’s initially small population of unvaccinated escaped the notice of regulators and activists, a recent increase to more sizable numbers has set alarm bells ringing. State records show more than 13,000 kindergartners in California are unvaccinated because of either personal or religious beliefs, with nearly half without vaccination at some private schools. Currently, all 50 states allow medical exemptions for vaccines that would otherwise be required for a child to attend schools. Most of them offer parents the ability to claim exemptions on the grounds of personal or religious beliefs as well. Only Mississippi and West Virginia allow only medical exemptions In California a bill was passed in June, 2015 that would eliminate “personal belief exemptions” and only allow medical exemptions. This would also exclude all religious-based objections to vaccines as grounds for an exemption.
BUT IT’S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN!
This movement today is reminiscent of days long gone: Riots, pamphlets, and an outcry in 19th-century England set the stage for contemporary misinformation campaigns. The cause they rallied against? Vaccination against smallpox, a dread disease capable of disfiguring and killing. This disease claimed more than 400,000 lives per year throughout the 19th century, according to the World Health Organization. In 1867, to encourage widespread protection, English law made vaccination compulsory for infants and all children up to14 years of age, imposing fines on those who did not comply. The working class was outraged by such penalties. Activists raised an outcry, claiming the government was infringing on citizens’ private affairs and decisions. Since the inoculations were not completely without risk, with a small percentage of those suffering minor illness, riots broke out in towns such as Ipswich, Henley, and Mitford, according to a 2002 paper in the British Medical Journal. An Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League was launched in London in 1867 amid the publication of multiple journals that produced anti-vaccination propaganda. Another chapter cropped up later in the century in New York City to spread the “warning” about vaccines to the United States. Under this pressure, the British government introduced a change in 1898: A “conscientious objector” exemption. The clause allowed parents to opt out of compulsory vaccination as long as they acknowledged they understood the choice. Similar to today’s religious and personal belief exemptions in most U.S.states, the parents signed paperwork certifying that they knew and accepted the risks associated with not vaccinating. Modern vaccination activists come from a different world than those in the 19th century. While anti-vaxers today are largely upper middle class, the crowd opposing vaccination in the 19th century was largely composed of lower- and working-class British citizens. Otherwise, history is presenting us with a nearly a carbon copy!
Where to we stand today? Despite all the objections to vaccination, smallpox has been completely obliterated from this planet. Other diseases are following suit, and notwithstanding such lunacy, will continue doing so! Vaccines are not only safe, they are clearly the greatest public health success in the history of civilization
As the old adage goes “Knowledge is finite, but ignorance has no bounds!”