When Jenny McCarthy and other celebrities have spent time persuading their fans and audiences that childhood vaccines have caused their children to develop autism, they have done a tremendous disservice to children everywhere. When people decide not to have their children vaccinated, the “herd immunity” is threatened; such community protection is disrupted because when a significant part of the community is vaccinated against a contagious disease like polio, the majority of the community is protected against that disease because the opportunity for an outbreak becomes minimal (Community Immunity [“Herd Immunity.”]) I am going to persuade you that the polio vaccine is crucial for children who are entering schools in the United States, and should be a mandatory condition of school enrollment.

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Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract, and was once the leading cause of disability in the US (Polio Vaccine.) Since the polio vaccine was developed in 1955, the disease has been eliminated in the United States; however, it remains in certain Third World countries so that until and unless it is completely eliminated globally, people in the United States are still at risk for the disease. Although the majority of people who are infected with the poliovirus do not have any symptoms, for the less than 1% who develop paralysis, it can result in permanent disability and death (Polio Vaccine II.)

The World Health Organization was able to successfully eradicate another devastating illness, smallpox, and since 1988, the organization has focused on eradicating polio (Donaldson.) By 2014, however, this goal has not been realized, because in countries such as Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon, for example, herd immunity has not been established, because various myths and misinformation about the dangers of vaccines are rampant.

In the United States, it is left to state and local authorities to establish standards for protecting public health, and this is evident in the tremendous range of laws within the 50 states regarding the required vaccination of schoolchildren before entering kindergarten. States have the primary responsibility for this area, but under certain circumstances, it is possible for federal intervention to be necessary (Swendiman.) Although there are widespread rules regarding vaccinations across the US, a large number of states provide exemptions on the basis of medical, religious, or philosophical beliefs. In addition, all states permit exemptions for children who may experience adverse side effects from the vaccines.

In any case, the polio vaccine should be mandatory in US schools, since because of its effectiveness the nation has been polio-free since 1979 (A Polio Free US, Thanks to Vaccine Efforts.) In order to be part of the success of the polio-free status of the US, parents must be participants by making sure that their children are vaccinated at the proper intervals and prior to starting school. No one would like to return to the worst days of the polio epidemic in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the disease crippled more than 35,000 people annually in the US; it became one of the most frightening illnesses during the 20th century. Because of the development of the initial vaccine and later the oral vaccine, which made it even easier to deliver the medication, parents, healthcare professionals, and community public health advocates have coordinated efforts to eradicate this devastating illness for over 30 years. Because of recent misinformation and fear mongering regarding negative impacts of vaccines, it has become even more imperative to emphasize the absolutely crucial nature of giving one’s children the polio vaccine on schedule, before enrolling them in school.

  • “A Polio-Free US, Thanks to Vaccine Efforts.” 10 July 2014. CDC.gov. When. 15 July 2014.
  • “Community Immunity (“Herd Immunity”).” 27 November 2013. Vaccines.gov. Web. 15 July 2014.
  • Donaldson, L. & Rutter, P. “Mandatory Polio Vaccination for Travelers: Protecting Global Public Health.” The Lancet (2014): 1695-1697. Print.
  • “Polio Vaccine (IPV).” 2014. Web M.D.com. Web. 14 July 2014.
  • “Polio Vaccine, II.” 7 July 2014. CDC.gov. Web. 14 July 2014.
  • Swendiman, Jared Cole and Kathleen. Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent And Current Laws. CRS. Washington DC: Congressional Research Service, 2014. Print.