Why We Vaccinate

If you have been following the news in the last few months, it is likely that you have heard about the outbreak of measles in North America that is believed to have started at Disneyland in California. Measles is a viral disease of children that was almost completely eliminated through a childhood vaccination program. The only reason that it was not eliminated was a few people stopped vaccinating, based on false research that the vaccine caused autism. Even the scientist who published the paper has said that he faked it because he was paid by an insurance company. Unfortunately, the parents who were not vaccinating chose to ignore the fact that the research was not real.

How a vaccine works is by exposing the person (or animal) to what the virus looks like, so the immune system can recognize it. If the real virus comes along, the body is already set to attack it before it can infect. The vaccinated ones stay healthy, the unvaccinated ones get sick.

People absolutely have the right to choose not to vaccinate their children or pets. They are willing to take the risk of viral infection. With that right comes responsibility…the responsibility to not put others at risk. That means if you choose not to vaccinate, you cannot go to places where you can make others sick. For people, this translates as not going to places like Disneyland. It may lead to your family doctor refusing to take your child as a patient because it creates a risk for other patients.

For pet owners, this responsibility shows up as not taking your pet to dog parks, grooming places or boarding kennels. Most pet-related businesses ask for proof of vaccination, as they have a responsibility to all of their clients. Even without having to provide proof, most pet owners know if they have vaccinated their pets. They have a responsibility to not bring unvaccinated animals to places where they can pass disease on to someone else’s pet.

Those who complain about being “forced” to vaccinate have missed the point entirely. The choice to not vaccinate comes with consequences that may be tragic or inconvenient. A good comparison would be somebody who chooses not to wear a helmet when riding a motorbike. It would be inconvenient to have the police give you a ticket. It would be tragic to crash when you are not wearing a helmet.

Written by Morinville Veterinary Clinic