Dear Future President,
I’m just an average person. I’m a teenager, sitting in a chair in a room lit by warm light, surrounded by other teenagers. I’m a high school student in the Midwest, going to a public high school with an AP Language and Composition class, taught by a teacher who wants his class to learn about important things. I don’t have any special qualifications. So should my opinion matter? I don’t know. But I don’t like getting sick. And I don’t like it when other people get sick. That’s why I support mandatory vaccinations for all but the most devout religious objections.
Disease is an awful killer. Little kids die every day covered in rashes and pustules, struggling for breath. Men and women in their prime are cut down in untold numbers. Disease has emptied out great cities, reduced proud and bustling societies to ghost towns, and ruined civilizations. Disease takes both the strong and the weak to mass graves.
But now, in this country, that’s not such a big problem. We don’t really have to worry about plague sweeping the countryside anymore. Today, a parent can have a reasonable expectation that every one of their children will live to old age. And that’s almost entirely due to vaccines.
So do we all really still need to get vaccinated?
The fact of the matter is, nearly everyone (still) needs to be vaccinated for our country to be completely protected. No vaccine is 100% effective, and there are many, many people who can’t get them. What is needed to protect everyone is “herd immunity,” where there are enough people well enough protected that a disease can’t spread. Ultimately, that’s the best way to make sure these diseases aren’t a threat - making sure that almost no one is exposed to them in the first place. Most of those horrible diseases still exist, and none of them is more than a plane ride away.
For that to work, though, the vaccination rate has to be high. For highly contagious diseases like measles, all it takes is a small cluster of unprotected individuals for a rare disease to cause an outbreak. Until the diseases that we vaccinate against are eradicated, we can’t allow any leeway for them to come back to the U.S.
There are some people that have deeply held religious beliefs that prevent them from getting vaccinated. Those beliefs should be honored - no one should be forced to choose between their religion and the law - but objectors can’t be let off the hook when it comes to protecting the country. Unvaccinated people have a big risk of infection during an outbreak, and should be treated accordingly.
Others fear the safety record of vaccines. But when it comes down to it, the polio vaccine has a much better track record than polio does.
The reason we don’t have to fear every cough and sneeze and cut, the reason why the majority of deaths of soldiers aren’t from disease, the reason why we expect every child born to live a long and full life, and the reason why we have a society mostly free of serious disease is widespread vaccination. Vaccines are something that keep us all safe from a very real threat. Getting a shot is an easy step that everyone should take to protect themselves and those around them.
So please, Mr. or Mrs. President, get our country vaccinated.