The vaccine debate is a waste of breath. It is unfounded, unsupported and horrifyingly present in the lives of anyone who comes in contact with a child. The debate lacks sanity and, more importantly, brings to light a jarring number of massive critical thinking issues.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield released an infamous study through non-peer-reviewed journal The Lancet, linking autism to the MMR vaccine. In 2004, the study was called into question, and in 2010 it was fully revoked. No scientists have been able to reproduce the results and major studies have since found no link between the vaccine and autism. So why do anti-vaxxers refuse to let sleeping dogs lie?

Fear is at the heart of the vaccine debate. An emotion felt by almost every human being on earth, fear can control us and have major influences on our actions, relationships and critical thinking skills. In this case, however, those against vaccinations have misplaced their fear and caused a neurodevelopmental disorder to seem like more of a risk to a child than a number of diseases that have destroyed families and killed countless kids.

Vaccines don’t cause autism, but even if they did, is that really a worse fate than bringing polio back to the United States or dealing with measles epidemics in elementary schools? We are currently facing a public health crisis because an alarming number of people believe that autism is a fate worse than crippling illness or death.

In the four years prior to the 1955 licensing of the Polio vaccine, an average of 16,316 paralytic polio cases and 1,879 deaths from polio were reported each year. In 1920, 469,924 measles cases were reported, and 7,575 patients died. The measles vaccine was licensed in the US in 1963 and by 1998, no measles-related deaths were reported. As of 1991, polio caused by wild-type viruses has been eliminated from the Western Hemisphere.

Autism, although sometimes devistating for patients and families, has the potential to open up the mind in new ways and is associated with a number of wildly successful individuals, including Satoshi Tajiri and Dan Aykroyd. While a life with the disorder is unarguably more difficult than life without, living with autism is possible; thriving with autism is possible. Living with polio is not.

While the idea that a lack of vaccinations could potentially bring back the crippling disease that killed over 3,000 children in 1952 seems dramatic to some, it must be understood that polio is literally a plane ride away from the United States. Before traveling to a number of countries, polio booster vaccinations are required for all adults because it is that simple to become a carrier and infect a non-vaccinated child at home.

As a parent, it is your right to decide how your child is raised. It is your right to decide if they go to a public or private school; it is your right to decide that inorganic vegetables are a death sentence and that Flintstones vitamins are toxic. It is not your right to decide which diseases are reintroduced into society.

In this case, how you are raising your child is the business of every person you meet on the street, every surface your disgusting child sneezes onto when you rush into Starbucks for a coffee and of every other parent whose names you’ve only ever seen in online message boards.

It is not your right to endanger every child in this country and it is not your right to decide which scientific studies stand. Vaccinate your kids because, believe it or not, there are worse things than having your child placed somewhere on the autism spectrum. There are worse things than having a kid that is different.

There are very few worse things than having to bury your child because of a decision you made against all reason and common sense.

Photo courtesy Tatiana Vdb, Creative Commons.