Vaccination is not partisan issue

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The United States has every reason to be proud of its medical advances. Over the course of five decades, the government-funded system has managed to decrease instances of various deadly diseases such as Hepatitis A and B, tuberculosis, and mumps to a mere 0.5 percent from a mighty average of 14 percent.

These statistics are one of the many reasons why the United States has retained its place as one of the world’s superpowers. Its medical infrastructure forms an impressive model, one which many developing countries are either eager to emulate, or are in the process of emulating.

You may ask how exactly a nation with such divided religious views and beliefs managed to curb the spread of these diseases a good two to three decades ago, while several other nations are still struggling to cope with ever-increasing instances of life-threatening diseases.

Well, it’s all credited to the healthcare system, which initially mandated the vaccination and immunization of kids and adults alike against various life-threatening diseases. However, there existed certain sections of society that weren’t very happy with this turn of events. They were, and with excusable reasons, still are unhappy to let go of their option not to get vaccinated.

The above-mentioned section of society forms an extremely insignificant portion of the population, but nevertheless an important one. While some understandably objected to vaccination for religious reasons, newer anti-vaccination groups claim that they don’t want their kids to develop autism as a side-effect, they believe, of vaccination.

This fear was born in the early ’90s, when a study claimed that a certain chemical used in vaccines to preserve the immunization triggered internal underlying conditions within a developing child, inducing autism. While it scared a lot of parents away from medicine, nearly two decades of exhaustive research has since invalidated the claim and the paper from which it originated, declaring there to be no connection at all between vaccination and autism.

However, the word of several well-renowned scientists, researchers, and doctors — not to mention the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine — doesn’t hold much weight at all when it comes to the likes of Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Late this January, in a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Obama urged American parents to get their children fully vaccinated, in an attempt to be cautious amid growing concerns over the recent Disneyland outbreak of measles, a highly contagious disease.

On the other hand, Christie is of the opinion that parents should have “some measure of choice” in vaccinating their children. Christie claims that he supports vaccinations and believes they’re extremely important to maintain public health.

However, he believes it’s his responsibility to “stand with” families affected by autism, “in their fight for greater parental involvement in vaccination decisions that affect their children,” according to The Huffington Post.

While some may believe the governor’s stance to be oh-so-noble, what a lot of people and the governor himself fail to envision is the number of people he’d have to “stand with” if even a few, seemingly insignificant, citizens refuse to get vaccinated.

But how can an educated politician such as Christie support “choice” on vaccination, based only on the incorrect assumption that vaccines are indeed a plausible cause for autism? The only clear motif that emerges is that Christie was attempting to depict vaccination as a partisan issue, establishing a Republican stance on an issue clearly founded on people’s fears and not on hard medical evidence.

If this is the case, Christie should be ashamed. Not only is he elevating peoples’ fears and doubts regarding vaccines, where none should exist, but he is also endangering American society at large.

As Obama mentioned in his NBC interview: “If you have a certain group of kids who don’t get vaccinated, and if it grows large enough that a percentage of the population doesn’t get vaccinated and they’re the folks who can’t get vaccinated, small infants, for example ... they suddenly become much more vulnerable.”

Our only hope now is that governors and politicians such as Christie realize the sensitivity of topics such as vaccination before distorting them with partisanship.

Next time, the governor should make use of his power and position to tell the people what they really need to know, instead of using the opportunities to further his own political agendas.