A Teen Speaks Up for Vaccines

IMG_2309Spreading the word about the benefits of vaccinating children is a personal crusade for my family and me. My mother lost her younger brother to meningitis in 1980, when no life-saving vaccine was available for the disease. I never got to meet my uncle, and my mother’s family suffered unbearably from his death. But, fortunately, today a simple vaccine can prevent the pain, suffering, and death that comes with this vaccine-preventable disease.

Last year my aunt, Paige, was diagnosed with cervical cancer caused by a strain of HPV. She had to go through extensive and painful treatment, but, fortunately, survived. If she had received the HPV vaccine as a teenager, like my sister and I did, then the suffering she had to go through could have been completely avoided, all with three simple shots.

Throughout my life, I have heard time and time again about stories where families have chosen not to vaccine and have suffered unimaginable consequences, ranging from my family’s own horror stories of the pre-vaccine days to local stories of parents frightened away from vaccines. While some people make false accusations connecting autism to vaccines, a link which has been disproven by many reputable studies, I am left wondering how different my life would be if every vaccine-preventable death had been just that—prevented. Perhaps I would have an uncle.

In the end vaccines have been proved statistically to save lives, are supported by every reputable health professional, and are thoroughly tested. Those individuals who are against vaccines may try to encourage you not to vaccinate, using anecdotes that make no sense scientifically. Even worse, they may persuade people not to rely on the experts.

When making a decision on vaccines, make it not based on personal accounts, even the ones I have shared above, but on the advice of experts and the huge amounts of scientific data that, for several decades, have supported the use of vaccines.

Virginia Kelly is a high school senior who was required to complete a graduation project on a topic of her choice. Due to her interest in the medicine, she chose a medical-based topic very near and dear to her family: vaccines. After researching and volunteering, she discovered many stories, just like her family’s, and an overwhelming amount of evidence to support vaccines. This process reaffirmed her pro-vaccination stance, while also reminding her what started her strong belief in vaccines.