Many people throughout the United States have not received immunizations for preventable diseases. This occurs for many reasons, and not all of them are conscious decisions made by the parents. However, not vaccinating one kid can affect those around them, even if the disease is uncommon. It can also lead to an outbreak of a nearly eliminated disease. The choice to vaccinate can have an impact on many people throughout the community, not just the person whose parents decided to not have vaccinated.

A vaccination is when “killed or weakened disease germs are intentionally introduced into the body, usually by injection.”(Centers for Disease a Control and Prevention) Children may have not been vaccinated for a few reasons, including conscious decisions by the parents or lack of the option to be vaccinated. They may not have the option to be vaccinated as a result of health conditions, income, or lack of insurance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who should avoid vaccines include those with an allergy to something in that particular vaccine, are pregnant or nursing a child, are at certain ages (depending on the vaccine), or are ill at the time of the vaccine. (2016) These people do not have the option to be vaccinated, or at least not at that time. They are also people who may be affected when other people who have not been vaccinated become infected.

Children may remain unvaccinated as a result of their parents’ conscious decision not to vaccinate them. There are several reasons that they decide against vaccines, including for religious reasons, out of fear of allergic reactions, of encephalopathy or a brain infection, of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and even of autism. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016) In fact, serious reactions are very uncommon, with the Centers for Disease Control listing the chance for a life threatening allergic reaction to occur to be about once per million vaccine doses. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016) While this may be an incredibly low chance, when it does happen to someone, their parents and family members are most likely going to be distraught and may blame themselves and vaccines. But, if a person doesn’t know anyone who has experienced such a reaction, they are probably not going to be as distraught and would be unlikely to choose to leave their children unvaccinated for the same reason. Whether or not they know someone who experienced a negative reaction may affect a parent’s choice about vaccinating their child.

The more commonly associated controversy with vaccinations is the fear of the child developing regressive autism. The vaccine related to this is usually the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine, or MMR vaccine, as regression usually occurred shortly after receiving the MMR vaccine. This was initially brought up in February of 1998 when The Lancet published a report describing 12 children experiencing inflammatory bowel conditions as well as regressive developmental disorders, and eight of those children’s parents or pediatricians believed the MMR vaccine was partly responsible. They believed the vaccine was responsible not only because of timing, but because there was reportedly identification of nucleic acid sequences, similar to DNA, from the measles virus in the blood cells of some of the impacted children. While they were reportedly there, it was not determined if the sequences were from the vaccine strain or a wild strain of measles, which means that it was not proven to be caused by the MMR vaccine. Statistics from population based studies in London and other places around the world have shown no positive correlations between regressive autism and the MMR vaccine, meaning that an increase in vaccines did not mean an increase in regressive autism. (Destefano, 756) However, the fear of their children regressing can lead parents to not vaccinate them.

When parents decide not to vaccinate their child/children, they are putting others at risk and lowering the herd immunity. The way others are at risk is because not everyone can be vaccinated due to age, allergies, or illnesses, as previously mentioned.“Herd immunity is when a significant portion of the population has been vaccinated to protect the others in the population that have not been vaccinated.” (Carden, 3) When herd immunity is lowered, there are more people at risk for contracting the preventable diseases. For example, if someone who was not vaccinated contracts measles, then everyone they come into contact with who has not been vaccinated is at a much higher risk of contracting it than if they had been vaccinated. When the herd immunity is lower, more people are at risk of getting sick than when the herd immunity is high. The best way to keep the herd immunity high is to get vaccinations, when possible. Low herd immunity combined with one person contracting a disease can lead to an outbreak, including of previously eliminated diseases like measles. These are outbreaks that could have been lessened or even not have happened if everyone who could have been vaccinated received their vaccinations.

Vaccines are a weakened or killed form of disease causing germs that are usually administered by injection in order to prevent that person from being infected by that disease. Some parents choose not to vaccinate their child or children because they believe vaccines are not safe and that their child will experience regressive autism. However, studies have shown no positive correlation between vaccinations and regressive autism. Other parents are unable to get their children vaccinated because they don’t have access to medical care, they can’t afford the vaccine, or their child cannot be given the vaccine for some reason. The reason could be that their child has an allergy or illness that does not allow them to be vaccinated. Both reasons for not vaccinating leave the child and others around them vulnerable to contracting preventable diseases. Also, they both lower the herd immunity, making the community more vulnerable to disease outbreaks.

Annotated Bibliography

Carden, Stephanie. “Importance of Herd Immunity and Immunization.”  This article has information about herd immunity, research behind it, and how it can be affected. It explains the research, and includes graphs. I plan to use this source in order to better understand research behind herd immunity and vaccinations, as well as to better understand the concept of herd immunity itself. This source was written by a student at East Tennessee State University and lists the CDC as one of its sources.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated with These Vaccines? 02 Dec. 2016. Web This source lists various vaccines and explains reasons for people to avoid these vaccines such as allergies or pregnancy, depending on the vaccine.

Destefano, F. “Vaccines and Autism: Evidence Does Not Support a Causal Association.”Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics 82.6 (2007): 756-59. Web. This source shows a study conducted in an attempt to discover whether or not there is a connection between vaccines and autism. It discusses that there is not a causal relationship. The article is written by a researcher at the CDC. I plan to use it to show why some of the reasons people choose not to vaccinate are not based on factual information.

Downs, Julie S., Bruine de Bruin, Wändi, & Fischhoff, Baruch . “Parents’ vaccination comprehension and decisions.” Vaccine 26.12 (2008): 1595-1607. This source explains various reasons for parents not vaccinating their children, including conscious decisions and mistakes or oversights. It continues by explaining research they conducted using mental models and interviews, and the results of said research. I plan to use it in my report to explain that parents do not always consciously decide not to vaccinate their children, and that there may be other barriers, but those that do consciously opt out are impacting those around them without realizing it. The three authors are professors at various universities, including Carnegie Mellon University.

The Vaccine War. PBS, 2010 This video is packed with information such as statistics, descriptions, and explanations of both vaccinations and herd immunity. There are examples of what has happened in certain locations in which many parents opted out of vaccinating their children. There are explanations for the fears behind vaccinations and responses to those fears. I plan to use this source for background information and for real life examples in my report. This source includes interviews from various doctors and specialists.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Parents Guide to Childhood Immunizations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016 This source is a helpful booklet that explains in simple terms vaccines, answers questions about vaccines and gives examples. The end of it has a glossary for words one may not understand.

“What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccinations?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 May 2014. Web This source gives information about what would happen if we were to stop vaccinating. It shows a helpful chart that provides a visual to explain why vaccines are important, even if a disease is not common. It is posted on the CDC website. I plan to use it to mention the effects of not vaccinating and to use the picture somewhere in my essay.