A Humanist View
Vaccinating Against Misinformation
It's worth noting that there are a number of people who will never be immune to certain diseases because vaccines aren't 100 percent perfect and some people may just be resistant to their benefits. Mary Gallagher (RN, MSN, CCRN), writing for Global Traveler USA, tells us that "even those not eligible for certain vaccines—infants, pregnant women and immune-compromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of the disease is contained." This is why it's so critical to vaccinate as many people as possible in order to maximize community immunity and protect those vulnerable few among the vaccinated as well as those who can't vaccinate. Whether they realize it or not, the more parents that choose to opt out of vaccinations, the more likely the diseases we vaccinate for will return in force.
When people like Jenny McCarthy try to convince us about the dangers of vaccines by relying on the lack of knowledge that many parents have about vaccinations, and occasionally by outright lying, it does a serious disservice to humanity. It's because some parents believe this misinformation that they incorrectly feel they are exposing their children to side effects, influencing them against vaccinating their kids. Such wrongly informed parents don't understand why others would complain about their personal opposition to vaccinations, not getting how their decision impacts everyone. They just don't recognize that when whole segments of the population refuse to vaccinate out of fear, all of society becomes more susceptible to deadly diseases.
Vaccines are a boon to humanity, but only if we fully take advantage of them. We can continue to eradicate diseases like smallpox through vaccinations, or we can choose pseudo-science and the deadly consequences that come along with it. This choice is one that all of society must make, which means that we have a responsibility to educate our friends, family, and neighbors about vaccines if we all want to enjoy the benefits.
Roy Speckhardt is the Executive Director of the American Humanist Association. He is also a board member of the organization providing Humanists leadership training, the Humanist Institute, and an advisory board member of Secular Student Alliance. Follow him at http://twitter.com/americnhumanist.