A new YouGov poll shows that while most Americans are in favor of requiring children to be vaccinated, a growing number of millennials (people aged 18-29) think that parents should be permitted to decide whether or not to vaccinate compared to older Americans. Fifty-seven percent of Americans surveyed believed that children should be required to be vaccinated, but only 42 percent of millennials agree. On the contrary, 73 percent of Americans aged 65 or older think that vaccinations should be required, with only 21 percent agreeing that parents should be able to decide.
Millennials were also more likely to believe that vaccinations cause autism, even though several studies have shown they do not. Andrew Wakefield, the man behind the 1998 paper that initially suggested that the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine causes autism in children, has been stripped of his medical license and is no longer referred to as a "doctor."
Vaccines have come back into the news after an outbreak of measles traced back to Disneyland has sickened nearly a hundred people in 11 states and Mexico. Measles was once considered to be eradicated in the United States, but falling vaccination rates are eroding herd immunity. The majority of the people infected with measles in this outbreak were either unvaccinated or were too young to be vaccinated.
Frankly, it's not shocking to me that millennials, a.k.a. the generation fortunate enough to not need to actually worry about catching the measles (or polio or whatever 'rubella' is) due to extensive vaccination programs rendering the threat moot, values vaccines less than older Americans who saw their friends die from the aforementioned diseases. One of my great aunts died in 1921 at the age of 13 from diphtheria. That's less than 100 years ago and about 30 years before the diphtheria vaccine was licensed in the U.S. In the grand scheme of history, that's not too long ago. Here in 2015, I had to Google what "diphtheria" even was because thanks to the miracle of vaccines, diphtheria has essentially been eradicated in the developed world. That's incredible.
The Disneyland measles outbreak should serve as a wake-up call to my generation that we are not invincible and that protection through herd immunity isn't guaranteed unless people actually get vaccinated. My generation was lucky enough to never need to worry about the measles. Let's keep it that way.