Western Governors University
The Anti-vaccination Movement, a Social Problem in America
What is the Anti-Vaccination Movement?
According to the latest data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 594 reported cases of measles in the Unites States between January 2014 and September 2014. Fourteen years after the CDC declared the elimination of measles in the U.S., Americans are experiencing the rampant comeback of measles and the majority of those who contracted measles were unvaccinated (CDC, 2014).
In 2008, when an outbreak of measles cases was reported in San Diego, California, CDC found that it had been caused by an unvaccinated school aged boy who unknowingly brought back the disease to the U.S. from Europe and passed it on to the unvaccinated population (CDC, 2008). The troubling fact is that this young boy was unvaccinated deliberately by his parents and he lived in a community with clusters of children whose parents were also against vaccination. This situation exacerbated the transmission of measles and caused the outbreak (Sugerman, et al., 2010).
The anti-vaccination movement is a grass-root campaign organized by individuals against vaccination due to their personal beliefs. Although the movement itself has been in existence since shortly after Edward Jenner introduced smallpox vaccine to the medical community at the end of the 18th century (Wolfe & Sharp, 2002), the proponents for anti-immunization in the 21st century have greater potential to reach further than ever due to the internet and social media (Davies, Chapman & Leask, 2002). Therefore, the anti-vaccination movement has a significant health implication for American public.
Who are they?
The anti-vaccination movement consists mostly of parents concerned with the safety of vaccines, conspiracy theorists, and civil liberty activists (Wolfe & Sharp, 2002). Not all the parents who do not have their children vaccinated are anti-vaccine activists. Anti-vaccine activists are often college-educated Caucasians with annual incomes of more than $75,000 who live in one of the states with philosophical exemption (Smith, Chu & Barker, 2004). These parents typically do not have their children vaccinated. On the other hand, under-vaccinated children exist in families often headed by young, uneducated single mothers, of low socio-economic status who live in inner cities.
What Do They Believe?
According to the one of anti-vaccine activists’ websites, Vactruth.com, their main arguments against vaccination are the following:
The vaccines are not natural: they produce artificial immunity, which can destroy the body’s natural immune system.
The vaccines are not safe and can cause myriad of health problems, such as autism, type I diabetes, attention deficit disorder to name a few.
The decision to vaccinate children should be up to the parents, not the government. The government should not interfere the personal belief or philosophy. (“About Us”, 2014)
Who Is Affected and How?
As a social problem, whom does anti-vaccine movement affect? Us. It affects the American public as a health threat. In addition, it puts a strain on the resources of our healthcare system.
A vaccine works best when the majority of people in a community are immunized as a whole (community immunity or herd immunity). Community immunity will provide protection to even the unvaccinated population such as infants and immunosuppressed people because the contagious disease is contained. (“Community Immunity,” 2013). However, when there are not enough vaccinated people within a community, one infected individual can cause outbreak. The number of intentionally unvaccinated children might have grown large enough to fuel more outbreaks (Daley & Glanz, 2011). Often, the most impacted are the most vulnerable: infants and young children. Thus far, in 2014, there have been nearly