Modern populations have significantly benefited from the trials that were experienced in previous generations. These benefits are such a part of the daily activities that it is common practice to overlook the impacts. Benefits such as technological advancements are, to some extent, considered as the evolutions are highly covered in the media and social circles. Medical advancements, however, are recognized in the immediacy but then the attention is moved to the next discovery. Among these medical advancements, vaccinations have significantly improved both the quality of life and life expectancy for populations around the globe. As the associated diseases have been nearly eradicated, populations have forgotten about the extent of losses that earlier generations have experienced. In other words, the magnitude of these advancements has been forgotten as the populations have not experienced the same extent of trials that were experienced before the discovery of the associated vaccinations.
Unfortunately, given the lack of realization about the horrors of these contagious diseases, the importance of vaccinations has also been lost to many populations. In 2013, the United States of America, one of the most developed nations in the world, felt the impact of this failure to adhere to the recommendations of vaccinations when New York experienced “the second highest incidence of U.S. measles cases since the disease was eliminated” (Skehan & Muller, 2014). Given the burden that this creates in terms of public health and safety, loss of productivity, and healthcare provisions, the response to the public’s decision to not vaccinated has been explored as a balancing act between governing and the right to decide (Gostin, 2015). For those who are vaccinated, the availability of on going boosters is then limited as the cost of healthcare increases meaning that the right to decide does not only affect those who do not receive the vaccination but also those who cannot afford continued protection. Fortunately, the 2013 measles outbreak was contained but changes to the regulations were not effective in preventing future outbreaks.
Currently, the state of New York is once again experiencing the tragedy of a measles outbreak with more than 250 cases since September 2018 (Miller, 2019). Having experienced such an outbreak in the past, the officials have had time to consider what went wrong and how to address the situation if or when it happened again. Taking into considerations the fears associated with vaccinations and the exemptions based on parental autonomy and religious affiliations, the government chose to not act unless there was an immediate public health emergency. At this point, such an emergency has been declared. Miller (2019) explains that New York Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot has determined that the public health emergency, which gives the office the right to take necessary steps to protect the health of the population, supports the decision to require vaccinations despite these causes for exemptions.
In order to enforce the requirement, the officials in New York have set into place specific instructions and consequences. For instance, “health officials will check the vaccination records of people who may have been in contact with infected patients. People who have not gotten the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine may be fined” (Miller, 2019). Furthermore, parents have been notified that they have 48 hours to get their children vaccinated which will be monitored through the city wide records. (Miller, 2019). While these regulations are in the best interest of the public health, this does not mean that the government has achieved the balance between protection of health and protection of rights in the minds of those who have claimed the exemptions. In fact, a lawsuit is being planned against the city by the large community of Orthodox Jews (Pager, 2019). The fear of the measles, the vaccinations, and the overreach of the government has set in motion the potential for an uprising across the city that may not be as easily eradicated as the disease that is working its way through the population.
Despite the potential for lawsuits and claims of violations of constitutional rights, the city of New York is acting in the best interest of the population. According to Pager (2019) the city is within its legal role due to the extent of the outbreak and is not concerned about any threats of lawsuits. Beyond the medical exemptions, there are varying regulations as to what immunizations must be taken and what constitutes a justified reason for an exemption. According to Gostin (2015) these regulations are determined by each state and not by the constitution. This means that states with less rigorous requirements have a higher population of vaccine skeptics and are at a much higher risk of an outbreak. By enforcing a strong requirement of vaccinations, the city is ensuring that those who choose to reside in New York can do so knowing that this will not be an ongoing public health issue. If I were in charge of the Public Health for the state of New York and neighboring New Jersey, I would recognize the density of the population and the potential for recurring outbreaks. Based on this awareness, I would eliminate the state exemptions that are not enforced by federal law for all members of the population (Gostin, 2015). While some residents may choose to live in other states because of this change, the public health would be secured through an increase in vaccinations.
In closing, the most effective way to change the way that people approach advancements is to not let the reason for the discoveries get lost in context. According to Pager (2019) the key is to educate the population about the realities of these diseases and the safety of the vaccinations. Watching a child die from a preventable disease should not be an option or a part of the equation of balance. However, the choice to do so has somehow been woven into the thread of American society. In order to remove this choice, it is necessary to make the alternative more acceptable.