Amid the Washington measles outbreak, some teens have decided to defy their parents’ wishes and get themselves vaccinated. Anti-vaccine efforts have undoubtedly cost the United States economy billions of dollars and more people are beginning to fall ill with diseases that were previously eradicated.
Why is this happening and, more importantly, why are teens fighting for their right to get vaccinated?
Measles Cases on the Rise in the U.S.
Currently, there are at least 54 cases of measles in Clark County, Washington. Another four cases have been reported by the Oregon Health Authority. The majority of the diagnoses are children under the age of 10.
Measles is an airborne virus that can cause death in the worst cases. Until the discovery of a vaccine in 1963, measles claimed thousands of lives. By 2000, the virus was declared eliminated in the U.S. However, in the last year or so, more cases of measles have been popping up. Cases have increased by 30 percent, according to the World Health Organization. The main driving factor behind this increase is the reluctance to vaccinate children.
“The reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines…threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,” the WHO report explained. “The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate are complex; a vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence are the key reasons for the underlying hesitancy.”
Washington Measles Outbreak Caused by Misinformation
It seems as though the Washington measles outbreak may have had other contributing factors as well. The American Journal of Public Health performed a study in 2018 that found combating the anti-vaccination movement has been made more difficult by Russian internet trolls.
These individuals have been deliberately spreading false information on vaccines on the web. Disinformation agents have been focused on finding issues, like vaccines, that will drive a bigger wedge between Americans. According to the data collected from the study, Russian trolls tweet about vaccinations 22 times more than the average Twitter user.
That isn’t to say Facebook users aren’t contributing to the misinformation as well. The social media site has been under pressure to combat anti-vaccine groups. Facebook has done this in the past by shutting down groups that supported the Flat Earth Theory and the QAnon Conspiracy. Some anti-vax groups are HUGE. Stop Mandatory Vaccination is one that has 154,000 members. Oftentimes, information shared within the group is not backed by science at all.
“Whereas bots that spread malware and unsolicited content disseminated antivaccine messages, Russian trolls promoted discord,” the study’s authors wrote. “Accounts masquerading as legitimate users create false equivalency, eroding public consensus on vaccination.”
Teens Fighting to Get Vaccinated
Eighteen-year-old Ethan Lindenberger decided to get his first round of vaccinations (ever) amid the Washington measles outbreak. Now, more reports of other teens defying their parents’ wishes and getting vaccinated have been surfacing.
An 18-year-old from Georgia named Mayci shared her plans for getting vaccinated as well. As an employee at a doctor’s office, Mayci felt as though she had more information to make her feel comfortable getting the vaccines. So far, she’s gotten both tetanus and flu shots. She has plans to be vaccinated for more illnesses in the future.
More and more teens are coming forward with a desire to receive the vaccines their parents neglected to allow them to have as children. Washington State legislators are now attempting to put a law on the books that would lift any non-medical-related exemptions. This would require them to get their children vaccinated.
Readers, what is your stance on vaccinations?
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