Vaccine hesitancy shows how easily we can move backward

The Uniontown Herald-Standard/AP.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were all nervous about Y2K?

You remember that — some folks were hoarding food and water in the midst of overheated predictions that the transition from Dec. 31, 1999, to Jan. 1, 2000, would lead to computer meltdowns, planes falling from the sky and all manner of anarchy.

Well, the world made the transition from the 20th to the 21st century, from one millennium to another, without too much difficulty. And, as we embark on 2023, it’s startling to realize that we are now almost one-quarter of the way through the 21st century.

FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans' Community Resource Center, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif.  The Biden administration announced it will release doses of prescription flu medicine from the Strategic National Stockpile to states as flu-sickened patients continue to flock to hospitals and doctor's offices around the country. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

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Optimistically, human progress will carry on in the new year and the years ahead. We’ll find ways to eradicate disease, extend our lives and make our world more habitable. The rapid creation of a COVID-19 vaccine two years ago, the dazzling images captured by the Webb Telescope and the recent breakthrough in nuclear fusion demonstrate just what humanity is capable of.

But, flawed as we are, we are capable of moving backwards. There is perhaps no better illustration of this idea than parents who are heedlessly brushing aside long-settled knowledge about the efficacy and safety of vaccines and not signing their kids up for shots.

And we’re not talking about just the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. We’re talking about vaccines that would help stop polio, measles and a range of other afflictions that have largely evaporated because of, yes, vaccination.

The consequences of vaccine refusal have been on vivid display in Columbus, Ohio, in recent weeks as more than 80 children have come down with the measles. Some of the children required hospitalization, and almost none of them had received even a single dose of the measles vaccine.

Some children cannot be vaccinated due to health reasons, but many parents claim they are opposed to vaccines on religious or philosophical grounds. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 28% of all adults believe children should not receive vaccines for diseases like rubella, mumps and the measles if their parents don’t want them to. The number has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Misinformation fuels some of the reluctance by parents to get their children vaccinated. They end up falling for dubious information they see online, like the canard that vaccines cause autism. Then, there are the parents who stubbornly believe it’s their “right” to refuse vaccines for themselves and their children, even if it means putting the health of others in jeopardy. One Detroit-area man recently told The Washington Post that he wasn’t getting his kids vaccinated because of his “rights,” and, besides, he wasn’t worried about them coming down with the measles or polio.

Of course, the reason he doesn’t have to sweat that possibility is because generations of children have been vaccinated.

We are, to put it simply, better off than most of our ancestors. Overall, we are better educated, live longer, and are not as plagued by ill-health. These blessings of our modern world shouldn’t be recklessly cast aside.

— From the Uniontown Herald-Standard/AP.