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Kathy Goodson

There is no room for debate on vaccination. The scientific validity of the measles vaccine is not in question. The best available science clearly and firmly states that vaccinations are safe, and more importantly, necessary to save lives. Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccinations should be mandatory to preserve the health and safety of the masses for the benefit of society.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set the stage for vaccination requirements; however, the messages they communicate are not always clear. There should be no veil of secrecy behind whether and why a vaccination is recommended or required. Vaccinations for a disease are required if the disease possesses the potential for outbreak. U.S. citizens are required to have MMR vaccination, but you may currently seek a waiver for exemption. However, becoming a legal U.S. immigrant makes the same requirement without exception. This is not a clear message. The ramification of not being vaccinated against MMR needs to be effectively communicated and reinforced to all U.S. citizens. The key message to U.S. citizens is that vaccination is necessary to preserve our current way of life.

Americans have been flooded by information regarding a relationship between autistic disorders and vaccines. The 1998 study linking autism to vaccines has been retracted and its author has lost his medical license. In addition, the World Health Organization does not recognize an association between MMR vaccine and autism. However, the fuel given to the vaccination debate has been limitless. Celebrities, political figures, and American families have thrown up their arms and have said no to vaccination. Even in the face of legitimate countering scientific evidence, the argument against vaccination because of autism remains rampant. The great debate of parents vs. the state, government, etc. in regard to children and medicine is not a new one. History has given us plenty of examples of parents refusing medical treatments to their children. Parents have denied their permission for blood transfusions and chemotherapy treatments for cancer. The response by the government has always been of the common thread to do what is best for the child. We have passenger laws for children to make sure they are safe for the child. We have online privacy laws to protect the personal information of minors. All of these laws, like a requirement for vaccination without exemption, make the population safer from the actions of one individual. The end goal is always safety of the population.

Childhood vaccinations are absolutely requirements for public health and public safety. Time and time again, they have proven to be the most successful (and cost effective) tools of disease prevention. In order to protect sustained containment of a disease, there has to be a critical mass of the population vaccinated against the disease. In the case of the measles, this value is between 84 and 94 percent. The national rate of vaccination is 92 percent; however, the point is moot because regional demographics for measles vaccination vary widely. This variation becomes significantly relevant when factoring in the American rate of travel. Falling below the critical mass or herd immunity of vaccinations opens the U.S. to a resurfacing of diseases once thought of as gone forever. It puts everyone at risk.

In 2014, we had a record year of measles cases in comparison to the decade prior. Is this a big deal? The answer is yes. Imagine continuous cases of exposure events like the recent at Disney. Resurfacing of any endemic threat of disease that we thought once conquered would severely affect our entire population. Vaccines are necessary for saving lives. People still die from diseases such as the measles, and even those who do get vaccinated may contract the disease upon exposure. Forgoing vaccination exposes not only a single person, but also countless others. Decision makers, the public, and the media all have a life or death stake in the policy of vaccination. Incomplete MMR vaccination is an extreme public health and public safety issue, and should be treated as such.