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Immunization is a tricky issue, especially today. In the last twenty years or so, vaccination has become a hot-button topic, with scientists and pseudo-scientists on both sides arguing.
Vaccination has helped cure and eliminate many diseases, some of which are among the most deadly natural diseases in the world. The polio vaccination program started in 1955 had, by 1965, reduced the number of paralytic polio cases to 61 nationwide. The last case of polio in the United States was reported in 1993. The best case for vaccination is in the numbers of fatal infant diseases that have been eradicated or significantly reduced.
On the con side, many anecdotal claims are made each year that mandatory vaccination has adverse side effects on young immune systems. The largest such claim is that vaccines cause autism, a condition that usually manifests around the same age as vaccinations are first given. At this time, there is no legitimately accepted study that proves any sort of correlation. The British medical journal Lancet retracted the 1998 study that first suggested the link. On the other hand, many children have other reactions, including reduced immune function and brain inflammation. The majority of claims against vaccination come from influential figures in the media, who have a large audience, but who might not be knowledgeable in the field.
I, myself, believe that vaccines are a useful and necessary part of medicine. Without them, thousands of children worldwide would still die each year from whooping cough, smallpox, measles, and mumps. However, I believe that, as with every science, there needs to be improvement; the substance Thimerosal, which is a mercury preservative, has been blamed for health problems and subsequently was removed from vaccines. Longer case studies and testing may be a good idea.
Mandatory immunization is even trickier. The forcing of a medical procedure on any person is, in my view, unethical at best; however, parents must be allowed the right to decide what is best for their children until the children are of a certain age. To require immunization as part of a government program seems wrong to me, but I cannot fault the reasoning behind it, just the methodology. It seems to me that if we want everybody to be healthy, we should inform and educate, instead of forcing.
Regardless of a person's personal feelings about vaccination, the statistics and facts must always be applied and weighed. Correlation does not always indicate causation.
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