Born in 2007, the anti-vaccination movement in the United States, whose proponents are better known as anti-vaxxers, are placing the lives of untold numbers of American children at risk because of their ignorant and baseless opposition to life-saving vaccinations against contagious diseases such as measles and mumps.

Public health authorities agree this anti-vaccination movement wouldn’t have gotten as much traction and supporters as it did without celebrity endorsers such as Robert DeNiro and Jenny McCarthy. The latter claims a measles vaccination gave her son autism, and this unfounded allegation is now cited by anti-vaxxer parents as the main reason for not allowing their children to be vaccinated against measles.

Unfortunately for these anti-vaxxer parents, the worst measles epidemic in over two decades is now sweeping the United States. At the most risk from this menace that was declared eradicated in the year 2000 are the unvaccinated children of anti-vaxxers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that as of late July, more than 1,100 measles cases have been reported in 30 states since the beginning of 2019. That’s the largest number of cases since 1992.

Left untreated, measles can lead to brain damage and death. And it’s on the rise due to anti-vaxxers.

Fortunately, most children in the U.S. are immunized against measles. Only a little more than 1 percent of children aren’t immunized. CDC emphasized having enough immunized people around stops a virus like measles from spreading.

This “community” or “herd” immunity exists when 95 percent of people in a location are immune. When clusters of people aren’t immunized, this allows infectious cases like measles to spread.

CDC said there are a small number of key reasons for parents now to refuse getting their children vaccinated. Top of the list is the allegation that measles vaccine, MMR, can cause autism. This allegation is flat out wrong.

Doctors agree vaccines can have side effects but with vaccines, the most common side effects are mild. The most common side effects are a slight fever or soreness where the needle was injected.

Serious side effects are rare. A database called the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System tracks all reported side effects. Its information is publicly available to parents or anyone else wanting to use it.

Doctors concur autism is not a side effect of vaccines.

The alleged link between vaccines and autism has been researched extensively, and there has been no link found.

Another baseless fear is vaccines will overwhelm a child’s immune system. Doctors admit they’re giving more shots to babies than they used to. They note, however, that the antigens in vaccines are nothing compared to the antigens that babies encounter as we breathe, eat, touch things, get dirty and otherwise live our lives.

Vaccines give babies a “sneak peek” into an infection. They can’t cause the infection but gives the body a chance to make antibodies so it’s ready to fight the infection. Vaccines don’t overwhelm the immune system. On the contrary, it’s helping to make the immune system work more efficiently.

The HPV vaccination is effective at preventing genital warts caused by HPV infections. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay
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