Not Vaccinating Your Kids Is a Horrible Thing to Do

05.01.13 8:00 PM ET

In Swansea, Wales, there is a measles epidemic. Over 800 people have been diagnosed with the disease that is easily preventable by parents vaccinating their children.

Measles can lead to lung infections such as pneumonia, and untreated, it can often be fatal. Some parents, however, refuse to vaccinate their children.

Wales has had low Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccination rates for some time … since about 1998, in fact, when Andrew Wakefield published his bogus study in the Lancet falsely linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

It’s easy to lay all this misery at Wakefield’s feet, but there's plenty to go around. The Lancet should never have published it (many of the co-authors later withdrew their names from the paper). Tony Blair, then prime minister of Britain, declined to reveal whether his own son had gotten the MMR vaccine, prompting rumors it wasn’t safe. (Bizarrely, years later, Cherie Blair, Tony’s wife, said they had given their son the vaccine; how many people would’ve been spared misery had they simply stated the truth?) Newspapers printed ghastly articles linking vaccines and autism. And groups like the Australian Vaccination Network spread—and continue to spread—outright falsehoods about vaccines. Many of these groups actively support Wakefield.

While Wakefield’s study has been called fraudulent and unethical by the British medical community, fearful parents still refuse to vaccinate their children because of a link to autism that has been disproven. The effect of these actions can seriously harm largely populated areas.

It is understandable that parents would be wary of something they believe will harm their child. However, measles vaccinations have been around since the early 1960s. There are also alternatives to the MMR that have the same immunization power against measles.

If there were real questions surrounding the vaccine, there is no way that it would be mandatory for children to receive it before entering many (if not most) American schools and universities.