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Vaccine Rejection: Truth And Consequences

Kent State epidemiologist Tara Smith talks about vaccines, recent preventable measles outbreaks and her 2017 journal article on vaccine rejection.

Updated on July 01
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Key Smash Notes In This Episode

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According to Tara Smith, there are a lot of things that people can do. One simple thing, among many that she mentions, is by making vaccines normalized in our society. In most cases, vaccination is only heard about when a bad reaction occurs.

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Tara says that it depends on the state laws of those who are exempted. She says it’s good to know the regulations within a state and school district. With that knowledge, a person should then figure out how to strengthen the laws and make changes if necessary.

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Resistance to vaccination is a big problem, specifically to herd immunity, which is the amount of people in the population that are required to block the transmission of infectious pathogens.

Those not vaccinated become susceptible to life threatening diseases, and by picking those diseases in areas where vaccination is not required, they are later able to bring the diseases back into their unvaccinated local communities.

Editor's note: The pathogens are then able to mutate, to change into pathogens that our bodies no longer know how to defend against. Anti-vaxxers don't just endanger themselves, but create a potential for infecting millions of people around them, even if those other people have been previously vaccinated.

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It’s difficult to pinpoint for the country as a whole due to how vaccination increases in one area or decreases elsewhere. When outbreaks occur, people often only see what happens negatively, which leads to a bump in immunization or laws are changed. It usually takes an outbreak to occur to create change and awareness.

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That's how we are in public health and in general. When it comes to vaccinations, usually they’re invisible until there is an outbreak or crisis. People become advocates once witnessing the experience or tragedy of their child. We assume that vaccinations lead to negative reactions, but that’s not always the case.

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Every year in the United States, about 40-50% of people will get a flu shot. Serious reactions occur in maybe 1 in a million. They do exist, but they are extremely rare.

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