When Ethan Lindenberger testified in court against his own mother to decide on his vaccinations, the anti-vaccination debate was brought to the forefront of the news. The two distinct sides of the argument, people who are for vaccinations, and those who are against them, dubbed “anti-vaxxers,” have created a nationwide discussion. Topics such as religious exemption, moral code, government involvement, and schooling requirements regarding vaccines are all being brought up by both sides. Although anti-vaxxers make up a small minority, their arguments have brought up serious concerns in the medical industry.
Currently, students in the United States are required to have a specific set of vaccines to enter the public school system. However, exemptions are available for medical (available in all 50 states), religious (available in almost all states), and philosophical purposes (available in less than half of the states).
At this point in time, almost anyone can claim a philosophical exemption. This has begun to create an issue, because while religious exemptions are legitimate, many anti-vaxxers use this to avoid vaccinations altogether. This ultimately affects the immunity of the mass public and puts people with legitimate religious or medical exemptions at risk because of outbreaks.
The truth is that vaccines are necessary to protect the immunity of the mass public and many anti-vax concerns related to injury are not factual. In terms of exemptions, philosophical exemptions are unreasonable and often abused by those who do not need them.
Especially in the case of public schools, unvaccinated students can pose a serious threat for most of the student population. Because many diseases are still present and easily spread in large groups of people, those without vaccinations are at an incredibly high risk of contraction. During outbreaks, which have become more and more common, unvaccinated students are at high risk.
“I think that [vaccines] are something that are necessary to prevent massive outbreaks of diseases,” said Steinbrenner’s school nurse, Karol Heosto.
Students who wish to attend public school should be vaccinated, except for those with medical exemptions. While this still does not solve the issue of philosophical exemptions, it does protect the public-school population.
One of the biggest concerns of anti-vaxxers is that vaccines can cause harmful disorders, injury, or even death. Many antivaxxers seek philosophical exemptions in the hopes of dodging injury when there is no correlation.
A study by the CDC found that “Among children from 24 through 47 months of age with non–vaccine-targeted infections, compared with children without such infections, there was no significant difference in estimated cumulative vaccine antigen exposure through the first 23 months of life.” This means that there is no link between vaccines and an infection that they do not specifically target.
While medical and religious exemptions are valid reasons to not be vaccinated, philosophical exemptions have very little restrictions, and therefore, can easily be abused. A philosophical exemption can be claimed for relatively anything, leaving many people who have no reason to claim exemption from vaccines to not receive them. Using them to keep eligible people from being vaccinated in fear of injury is a potentially harmful mistake based on non-factual claims.
Because of the growing controversy, vaccines have started to become an issue among lawmakers and have even sparked a debate about the restrictions that vaccines place on citizens. Recently in Arizona, three bills advanced that are attempting to weaken the requirements for vaccines, specifically for children in schools, and rallies filled with anti-vaxxers are still happening quite often.
In the age of anti-vax movements, increasing education on the reason for vaccinations is something that needs to be present in schools, workplaces, and for all people living without vaccinations.
“By continuing to do more research and putting it out there to people that these are not things that are harmful, that these are things that actually are designed and created to help people.” said Heosto.
Grace Beilman // Staff Writer