If anyone is in a position to speak out about vaccines, it's Melinda Gates. Few people have engaged in philanthropic work in developing countries to the extent that she and husband Bill Gates have. Now more than ever, where at least 28 unvaccinated people at Disney have been infected with measles, it's important to talk frankly about vaccination.
"We take vaccines so for granted in the United States," said Gates in an interview. "Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine because they have seen death."
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We, in Canada and the US, are lucky to the point of complacency. We haven't known measles-related death in our lifetime. We haven't lost our babies and children to diseases that are largely avoidable.
In many ways we have grown up in a sweet spot, whereby medicine is readily accessible at our fingertips.
Gates is right. In our cynicism of big Pharma, we are neglecting to see the overarching benefit of vaccines. I'm not a scientist or a doctor. I can't swear with 100% certainty that vaccines are totally safe and harmless. No medicine is—that's why they come with a list of possible side effects and contraindications—but what's the alternative? To expose our children to illnesses and diseases that may kill them?
When you look at the issue in this light, it seems like a no-brainer.
Tell parents in developing countries, who fight just to keep their kids healthy and alive, that some of us are opting out of vaccines and they'd probably want to slap us upside the head for being so foolish and reckless.
The Disney outbreak is a perfect example of how an highly infectious disease can make a comeback. California is among states that grant anti-vaxx waivers for personal beliefs. And over time, those exemptions add up and have repercussions.
According to a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the University of California, Dr. James Cherry, the anti-vaccination movement is the sole reason for the outbreak. "It wouldn't have happened otherwise—it wouldn't have gone anywhere."