By Qur’an Hansford
Almost two years ago, I wrote an editorial in regards to the rise of anti-vaccination propaganda. I expressed my dismay with the spread of misinformation and down right inconsideration of public health. Anti-vaccine supporters refused to offer up alternatives to remedy potential illnesses. They stir up criticism and controversy, instead of offering substitutes that they have found useful for their child. I believed that parents needed to take into consideration that they are not only putting their own children at risk, but other children their kids come in contact with. Those parents are allowed to do what they see fit for their child, but it is selfish to expose the public when they decide not to vaccinate their children.
Here I am two years later with the same criticism, but some concerns as well.
Critics of vaccinations have taken on various positions from political, scientific, sanitary and religious points of view. Opposition to smallpox vaccination in the 1800s in England and the U.S. became the frontrunner of anti-vaccination groups. English physician and scientist Edward Jenner was the pioneer for the smallpox vaccine, the world’s first vaccine.
During the 19th century and the development of the American government and modern medicine, there became a wave of distrust and violated personal liberties as the government mandated vaccine policies. The Vaccination Act of 1853 ordered mandatory vaccinations for infants up to three months old and, in 1867, the age requirement was extended to the age of 14 with penalties for those who refused to get them. This caused immediate resistance and, in response, movements such as the Anti-Vaccination League and the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League.
Fast forward a century later and we are dealing with a similar situation, even as modern medicine has evolved. Now, with the coronavirus, we are seeing this divide happening in real time.
Back in 2019, a year before the start of the global pandemic, Facebook announced “It’ll seek out and limit the spread of anti-vaccine hoaxes on its network and also stop showing pages and groups featuring anti-vaccine content or suggesting users to join them.”
Youtube also took the initiative by ceasing ads and Youtube channels promoting anti-vaccine propaganda.
Along with that, Amazon started removing anti-vaccine documentaries from its Amazon Prime Video streaming service, concerned that the platform was surfacing and recommending anti-vaccination books and movies.
Despite the naysayers and bills that are introduced but not enacted, vaccines are still the cause of three million lives prevented from disease related deaths, according to The World Health.
During the 2020 pandemic we have seen public health become political.
There have been protests on whether masks are effective or about reopening the public during the lockdown with claims it is an attack on human rights and our first amendment right to protest the government.
“Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress in June that he feels very strongly we need to do ‘whatever we can to get the children back to school,’” according to the Washington Post. Former president Donald Trump tweeted in favor of opening schools for in-person learning and threatened to sever funding for districts that do otherwise, just one of the reasons why he is banned from Twitter.
As the virus continued to kill and sicken thousands of Americans with no signs of subsiding. The current death toll is now over 500,000 according to the Washington Post.
The American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) clarified in July that, “schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgment of local experts. A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate,” according to the Washington Post.
With the competing messages of politicians vs. public-health professionals, education administrators are confused with what the “right” decision is to make.
I asked a series of questions in the start of the pandemic.First, will the virus mutate or not (Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic, according to CDC as of Feb. 21)? Will there be a vaccine by the fall(A vaccine has been administered but only 18.1% of the U.S.’s population has received it as of March 8 according to NPR)?
The concern that arises is — how do you protect thousands of students who crave the traditional college experience, not one with masks, social distancing and Zoom events? How will professors who are older or with families of their own be protected from the spreading of the virus? These questions have been left unanswered for almost a year now.
This is the time for administrators in all sectors of education to be transparent about public health and candid about whether things will get worse before it gets better and how they choose to combat conflict and implement solutions. Students, parents and teachers have put their health on the line in order to educate or be educated and it is everyone’s duty to do their part in ensuring a safe and healthy school year.
Dean Kelly Bidle, a mother and educator, is anxiously waiting for her shot at the vaccine.
“I am eagerly awaiting my turn to receive the vaccine. Some of my older family members have been fortunate to have gotten their first dose and I am very relieved for them,” said Bidle. “We are currently working on our fall planning and our conversations have included developing a policy regarding COVID vaccination. I hope to be able to share more on this soon.”
Today, we are seeing mask mandates being lifted in states such as Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana and North Dakota despite the looming threat of COVID-19 and highly transmissible variants, joining 11 other states that never required face coverings statewide. We are seeing society disregard the severity which is COVID-19. With all transparency, I was skeptical of the vaccine at first, despite my past critiques of anti-vaxxers. I had my suspicions whether or not it was accurate or not and if the trials just needed bodies to test on. But, in all actuality, I am anxious either way. There is still so much to find out about COVID-19, so how can I receive an adequate vaccine? Then there is the yearning of having my life return to normal, although I do not think that is possible now.
Whether you choose to get vaccinated or not, please wear your mask and practice social distancing.
This editorial expresses the unanimous opinion of The Rider News Editorial Board. This week’s editorial was written by Opinion Editor Qur’an Hansford