With the recent outbreak of measles in the United States (121 cases in 17 states), parents who make the choice to not vaccinate their children are being openly chastised. And they should be. So many people walk into pediatricians’ offices, are told that it is time to vaccinate their child(ren) against a certain disease, and they make the conscious choice not to do so. Why? They heard somewhere that vaccines have been linked to autism in children. Or a family member heard somewhere that it might not be safe. Or they learned that vaccines are made using ingredients they did not know how to pronounce and therefore must be dangerous.

It’s time to do the homework and learn what is going on before making a decision that may not only endanger one child, but the many children of parents across the nation.

One of the most common arguments against vaccination claims that vaccines cause autism. This is not true! I don’t know what it will take for people to stop believing this myth. At some point, there may have been a correlation between vaccinations and autism, but one does not necessarily cause the other. Any student who has taken a class involving statistics, psychology, math or most sciences will be able to tell you that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Rob Ring, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, one of the largest names in autism research, has a post on the Autism Speaks website that states that “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

Another argument has recently sprung up that claims that the ingredients in vaccines are poisonous. For some, this argument popped up from the common push for healthier food that suggested that if you cannot pronounce something in the ingredient list, you probably shouldn’t be putting it into your body. For food, this may be a sound argument, as pure unprocessed foods are much better for you than other foods. But, when looking at medications, long names you can’t pronounce are commonplace. The ingredients on the polio vaccine read as follows: calf serum protein, formaldehyde, neomycin, 2-phenoxyethanol, polymyxin B, streptomycin. This vaccine has next to eradicated polio in the nation. Nevertheless, most people wouldn’t be able to read that ingredient list, much less know what the ingredients do in that mixture. In the hands of a person uneducated in the field, those chemicals would be very dangerous and would lead to innumerable adverse consequences. A vaccine should have a minimum of three main components in addition to the dead viral DNA. These include a suspending fluid, a preservative fluid, and an enhancer. Those chemicals serve that purpose. If this is the basis for a person’s argument against vaccination, I don’t want to see them taking any medication of any kind for any condition, as their medicine would likely have ingredients that, in the wrong concentrations would have the same adverse effects.

We have become a relatively advanced society and have made fantastic strides in medicine in the past hundred years. The time of making decisions based on something you heard somewhere is long gone. In this modern age there are so many opinions and uneducated rumors floating around that it has become more necessary than ever to research an issue fully and understand both sides of an argument before making a decision that puts lives at risk.

Lotfi is a member of the class of 2016. 

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