Vaccinate Your Kids, Please

Michaela Tarwater, writer

Who spreads the influenza the most? Children. Over 36,000 people die each year of the influenza in the U.S (Harvard Health). Around 200,000 people are hospitalized each year in the U.S. because of the influenza (Harvard Health).  All public schools in America require some vaccinations to be enrolled, unless you are medically exempt or non-medically exempt from vaccinations. To become non-medically exempt from vaccinations varies state-by-state. To be exempted from vaccines without a medical reason, there must be a religion involved, or personal/conscious belief.  Public schools do not require the influenza vaccine, they only recommend it. Not only should the influenza vaccine be required, like the mumps or measles vaccine, it should be provided at school for no cost. Children are the main carriers of the influenza virus, which impacts the health of adults and other children. If more children were to receive the vaccine a lot more kids would not miss as much school, not spread the “flu” to adults, and overall improve their quality of life. Children should be provided the opportunity to receive the influenza vaccine at school, paid for by the government as well.

Shawnee Mission School District is one of many public school districts in Kansas. SMSD follows Kansas’ vaccine requirements, as all public school districts are supposed to do. Kansas only requires eight vaccines to be entered into a public schools, but recommends another three vaccines (Kansas Certificate of Immunizations). Kansas does recommend the current influenza vaccine, but does not provide any vaccinations at any school. Kansas is not different than most states, as no states require the influenza vaccine to go to public school.  Thirty-five states do not allow philosophical exemptions of vaccinations, including Kansas (NVIC). A philosophical vaccine exemption can be because the parents believe that vaccines can harm the child, that there is no way to know for sure that the vaccine will prevent the illness, or “there is an absence of adequate scientific knowledge regarding the way vaccines interact with the human body on a molecular level” (Sample Philosophical Vaccine Refusal Form). This is a big deal because this means more kids are getting vaccinated in general, and more vaccinations reduces the number of kids, and adults, getting sick.

Children are the biggest carriers of the flu. According to the New England Journal of Medicine children impact influenza rates at home and at school (NEJM). Kids are highly likely to infect adults and other children because they don’t wash their hands very well, if at all. Kids also touch a lot of objects at home and at school, causing whatever germs they didn’t wash off to be on every object. The schools with higher rates of influenza vaccines had less kids get sick (Davis). This will be good because adults won’t miss as much work and kids will not miss as much school, which is vital for their social skills. “In the United States, there are approximately 164 MILLION lost school days each year among students in kindergarten to grade 12” that is around four and half days per child (Kenny). That is a lot of school days to miss. Children would have a great opportunity to get vaccinated in school, with parent’s permission of course.
Children and adults would be more willing to get vaccinated if vaccines are provided in the workplace or school. In Hawaii, public schools provide vaccines during the school day as long as there is parent’s permission (Effler). This is a great way to encourage students to get their vaccines and to encourage parents to sign them up for vaccines. Adults are more likely to get vaccinated if there is an appointment made for them (Chapman). The option of having vaccines is not enough, appointments have to be made for these adults and has to be available to them at a place of work. The odds of children actually receiving vaccines would go up, if public schools set up a day for every child to get vaccinated. Public schools providing vaccines for free and  making appointments for children to get vaccinated would cause more children to become vaccinated and not get as sick. Flu shots do work. If more kids got the vaccine that would provide more safety to the kids who can’t receive the vaccine due to medical or religious regions.

Kids who are vaccinated are less likely to get the flu, and if they do get the flu, they receive a milder case. Carroll County in Maryland followed kids throughout the 2005-2006 school year to follow how many kids who got the influenza vaccines got sick and how many kids without vaccines got sick (Davis). The kids who got the vaccines missed .61% of the school year  in elementary school, compared to those who did not get the vaccine missed 1.76% of the school year (Davis). That is nearly two times as many days (ibid). Although in high school the vaccinated kids only missed .32% while the unvaccinated kids missed 1.8% of the school year (ipid). That is nearly six times as many kids missing school days (ibid)! Requiring the influenza vaccination will prevent children from getting sick, and therefore they will miss less school. Kids are less likely to become sick with the influenza virus if they have the flu shot. This would help the kids who are not medically able to receive the flu shot, as there would be less kids not receiving flu shots, so less chance of the kids who cannot get vaccines getting sick.

There is a very big argument over whether or not vaccines are safe. If it was the early 1900’s, the safety might be questionable, but it is the 21st century. Vaccines are safe. Some might say that certain vaccines cause autism, or that too many vaccines cause autism. However that is not the case. Multiple studies have been done to disprove the infamous study with Andrew Wakefield. Andrew Wakefield had a study only including eight children, and had no control subjects, yet he found that vaccines cause autism. Wakefield has lost his medical license in 2010 because of this study (Park). Vaccines have had mercury as an ingredient in the past, but as of the 21st century, no vaccines have mercury in them (Plotkin). In 1999, there was a law passed saying there shouldn’t be any more mercury in vaccines given to infants. This caused people to panic, saying that mercury causes autism and that the government has been poisoning children. This is not accurate, as the signs of mercury poisoning and autism are very different. Either way, the problem of mercury in vaccines had been eradicated. The only reason to not get vaccinated are for religion or medical purposes. Parents who don’t allow their children to receive vaccines report “low perceived vaccine safety and efficacy, low trust in government, and low perceived susceptibility to severity of vaccine-preventable diseases” (Salmon). Claiming that autism is caused by vaccines is just straight up ignorant and negligent.

Around 36,000 people are killed by the influenza virus each year (Harvard Health). If more children get vaccinated, that number could significantly drop. Adults would benefit from more vaccinated children, especially those who come in contact with children daily. Children carry the flu and are not getting vaccinated as frequently as they were in the past (The Economist). With vaccines getting cheaper each year, and being covered by most insurances, the amount of children receiving shots should be increasing dramatically. The fear of autism is stopping a lot of people from vaccinating their children. This information is outdated and incorrect. Vaccines only do good to those who get them, unless they are allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine. Providing influenza vaccines at school, and requiring the influenza vaccine for school entry would prevent more children from missing school days. With enough people, maybe one day there will be no deaths from the influenza.