Ishaan Nandwani, Opinions Editor
As a young boy, like many other stubborn and rebellious children of my age, I often dreaded trips to the pediatrician’s office. I knew what was coming: after the height and weight measurements, after the stethoscope pressed to my chest to detect my (rapidly) beating heart and after the insertion of the otoscope into my ear emerged my greatest nightmare: shots.
No Buzz Lightyear sticker could make up for the searing pain that my fragile eight-year-old self felt while poked with a needle into my deltoid, but still (likely due to my mother’s insistence), every year I went to the doctor’s office to receive my annual vaccines.
Vaccines are defined by the CDC as “a preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases.” Through vaccinations, we gain immunity from a disease by intramuscularly injecting a killed or weakened form of the pathogen, allowing our immune system to create antibodies specific for that pathogen and a swift immune response when exposed to the pathogen.
Vaccines have been employed by the medical community for more than two centuries, with the first reported inoculation associated with the smallpox vaccine of 1798 developed by Edward Jenner, a British physician and scientist. Since then, we’ve seen (and probably been injected with) countless other vaccines, including hepatitis, human papillomavirus (HPV) and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
For many years, being vaccinated was something that I — and I believed most others — took for granted: a rite of passage, as painful as it was. Yet this could not have been further from the truth. Vaccine resistance and mistrust is rampant across the world, and can be felt perhaps more strongly than ever with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine.
This hesitancy to be vaccinated is not founded in science, but myth. By refusing to be vaccinated, you pose a direct threat to not only yourself, but to everyone you come into contact with.
Mistrust in vaccines has co-existed with the presence of vaccines in our culture. In 1853, when vaccines were required by the English government for infants by law, extreme resistance emerged through the development of the Anti-Vaccination League, with many challenging the law as a violation of civil liberties.
Perhaps the most famous example of outcry against vaccines in recent history has been linked to the 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield claiming that the MMR vaccine may be associated with autism. The impact that this study had on our culture was frightening, causing MMR vaccination rates for children to plummet by around two percentage points. This study has been refuted many times by researchers, and Wakefield — a former doctor — was found guilty of fraud and falsifying facts; his medical license was revoked. Even still, many believe in the disproven links to autism presented in the now-retracted study.
While the backlash against the MMR vaccine resulting from the Wakefield study predominantly affected vaccination rates in children, the study and anti-vaccination movement that ensued has also fueled a larger vaccine mistrust in the general adult population.
With the introduction of three different vaccines against COVID-19 and now a booster shot, the hesitancy to be vaccinated has not slowed down. Indeed, although the vaccine has been required for many to return to their occupations or education, I’ve heard several times from individuals that they would not be vaccinated if it weren’t for this mandate.
Vaccine misinformation continues to permeate our society through social media, blogs and community and religious based organizations. It’s essential that we draw from credible and research-driven sources when making decisions about the vaccine.
I’ve provided a few digestible links that underscore the science behind vaccines and why their criticisms are unfounded that I highly encourage you to look at in case you are interested in learning more or want to refer others to them.
In order to keep our community safe, we must leave our ego (and myth) at the door and get vaccinated. For the betterment of our community, it is undoubtedly worth it.