Recently, a study at Emory University showed that the large amount of children currently unvaccinated in the United States puts the country at risk for a measles outbreak. Because measles is considered to be one of the most infectious diseases in the world, this outbreak could be disastrous if not properly contained.
But wait — didn’t someone already discover a cure for measles?
This potential outbreak is an all-too-real example of the consequences of scientific illiteracy in the United States. As the anti-vaccination movement gains momentum, more and more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. This can be written off as personal choice, until the sheer amount of unvaccinated children makes another outbreak possible. At this point, parents against vaccines are potentially causing harm to others by spreading the virus.
Those who have educated themselves on the subject may find it difficult to understand how it’s even possible to be opposed to vaccines. However, the circumstances which have fostered this anti-vaccination movement are understandable, considering the context. As previously stated, scientific illiteracy is a serious problem in the U.S., and its effects can be serious and far-reaching.
But what causes a lack of understanding of science? After all, it’s part of the core curriculum in public and private education across the country. Unfortunately, the study of science ends in the 12th grade for the majority of Americans. After this point, any knowledge of science obtained by 98% of U.S. adults is taken from media. This leaves room for a lot of bias and falsification in half-baked articles perceived as science by the general population.
As discussed in class, we live in a time where an extreme amount of importance is placed upon an individual’s right to their own opinions. Shouldn’t the same amount of respect be given to those who choose not to vaccinate? After all, not vaccinating is their choice, and this is a country where diversity is celebrated. This logic becomes somewhat flawed in a situation like this, where ignorance of scientific fact can actually increase mortality rates. If not vaccinating will cause human harm, should action be taken to prevent a measles outbreak? The solution to such an outbreak may be as simple as teaching our adult community how to understand scientific literature.