Government Mandate on Vaccinations?
Enter mother and her young son into the local family doctors office. The nervousness can easily be seen upon the face of the young child. The child is at the doctor for his next round of routine vaccinations. The doctor enters the room holding the shot. The young child immediately tenses up while his mother is trying to softly comfort him. The doctor says, as if for the millionth time, “hold still son, this will only sting a little and then it will be all over.” The boy squeezes his mothers hand and looks the other way and then begins to whimper after the shot is performed. The doctor places a bandaid on the injection site and the boy and his mom are sent on their way. That is how the typical vaccination in the U.S. proceeds. Many people do not give vaccinations much thought. Many people see vaccinations just as something that must be done. However, there are many questions that can be asked concerning vaccinations. Why do we receive vaccinations? Should we receive vaccinations? Are there any risks associated with receiving vaccinations? Why does the government often mandate these vaccinations as a prerequisite for a child attending school and should the government be allowed to do so? If vaccinations are so valuable, should the government even allow religious exemptions?
In order to begin the discussion on vaccinations, one must first understand how the immune system works. There are two main ways that the human body avoids and fights infections and diseases. The body fights outside invasions into the body in a non specific way and in a specific way. The non specific includes physical barriers, general barriers, biological barriers, and chemical barriers. The physical barrier is the body’s first defense against disease and includes skin and mucous membranes. Skin, being the largest organ in the body, provides a physical defense from objects outside of the body and mucous membranes offer a substance that can catch objects before they enter the body through a passageway. Fevers constitute a general barrier. A fever is a way of the body triggering the body to produce more white blood cells, antigens, and antibodies. An example of a biological barrier is inflammation. Inflammation can increase the blood flow to an area providing extra antibodies to an infected area. Another non specific way of the body fighting infections is chemical barriers. There are certain chemicals such as interferons and enzymes that trigger the immune system to kick in. The human body also has specific ways that it fights infection and disease. The specific way that the body fights infection is through antigen and antibody reactions. The immune system works by antigens recognizing an outside invasion and triggering the release of antibodies and white blood cells which fight and destroy the outside agents. The antigens act by remembering the type of foreign agent and how to quickly fight the agent. This is called an immunity to such an agent. This is where vaccinations come in.
Our immune system works by encountering various foreign agents and learning to recognize them and effectively fight them. This is a process that is ever adapting. Vaccinations can be used to aid in this process by providing immunity to a foreign agent. Before we can decide whether or not we should receive vaccinations, we have to understand what vaccinations are and how they work. According to Carolyn Gard, vaccines work by essentially tricking an individuals body into making antibodies to fight a disease without actually giving someone the disease. (Gard, 2001). The common method employed by vaccines is by injecting weak or dead disease into a patient. The body quickly recognizes the disease as an invader and produces antibodies to fight the disease. In the future, when the body comes in contact with the actual disease, the body has already built up an active immunity against the disease. This active immunity often lasts lifelong.
The value that vaccinations offer society is unmeasurable. There are as many as twenty eight diseases that now have vaccinations available for them. That means that there are twenty eight diseases that we do not have to worry about contracting if we are vaccinated against them. For example, small pox was a disease that resulted in thousands of deaths every year in the United States before the vaccine was created and proliferated throughout the U.S. However, thanks to the small pox vaccine, small pox has been completely eliminated from the United States and no longer poses a threat to the Americ...