Should Parents Give Their Children the MMR Vaccine?

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By: Lizbeth Yorio

Copy edited by: Anna Salomon Pasapera and Kevin Qiao

Research edited by: Stefon Wynter

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

The issue with children and vaccinations is not a relatively new one. Apparent even during the time of Benjamin Franklin, the matter continues to plague our society today.[1] One vaccine, in particular, that has caused much heated debate is the MMR, or measles-mumps-rubella, vaccine. As now a requirement in all 50 states to attend public school, parents have to wonder if the vaccine is all that beneficial. [2]

What’s So Great About MMR?

Supporters of the MMR vaccine argue that it is wholly valuable not only to the child, but to society as well. In accordance with the beliefs of the CDC, they hold that the vaccination is the best way to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella. [3] One dose of MMR is 93% effective, while two doses are 97% effective for prevention. [4] In having these hard statistics, supporters maintain that the MMR vaccine is the best way in preventing the spread of measles, mumps, and rubella. They also believe in a concept known as “herd immunity”. With this idea, a community, in which the majority is vaccinated, helps prevent the spread of disease to people who are unvaccinated. [5] So, children having received the MMR vaccine, could ultimately help increase the wellbeing of the community. In accordance with the theory, children receiving the vaccination benefit themselves and the other children around them. Another factor in the supporter’s case to vaccinate, is the weak link to dangerous side effects. A study conducted by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998 confirmed a link between the vaccine, autism, and Crohn’s disease. [6] This study, however, was retracted and discredited. As a result of this, many pro-vaccinators reasoned that since there is no conclusive and convincing evidence tying MMR to Crohn’s disease or autism, the vaccination is safe. They continue to hold that parents give their children the vaccination. The benefits, in their eyes, outweigh the risks.

It Can’t Be All That Good

The opposing side asserts that children should not be given the vaccination, for it is thoroughly detrimental to the child. Although Wakefield’s study was rejected, some studies have linked MMR to autism, and Crohn’s disease. [7] It is through these findings that parents are still hesitant about giving their children the vaccine. Dr. William Thompson of the CDC claims that the CDC lied about the link of MMR to autism. [8] According to him, they withheld crucial evidence connecting the two together. It is with this finding that opponents of MMR feel that the vaccination is not safe enough to be issued to children. The anti-vaccination group also contests the effectiveness of the vaccine. In 2010, a lawsuit was filed against Merck, manufacturers of MMR, because they submitted false data to the FDA about the efficacy of the vaccine. [9] The case is still ongoing, and in 2012, two other lawsuits were filed against Merck. [9] Among the uncertainties associated with MMR, it isn’t hard to see why there is opposition in giving it to children. There also exists evidence that MMR has actually helped spread epidemics, not prevented them. In Neil Miller’s book Vaccines: Are They Safe and Effective?, he notes that in the outbreak of measles, 63% of the infected had already been vaccinated. [10] Thus, the MMR vaccine proves not to be as effective as claimed by the CDC, and the FDA.

In Conclusion

All in all, I believe that parents should give their children the MMR vaccine. It has been used for many years, worldwide, without any significant damages to society. Despite supposed links to autism, and Crohn’s disease, the risk of disease, I feel, is greater than the risk of the side effects. As a member of society, I believe it is my duty to ensure the wellbeing of my community. I wouldn’t want another child to get sick from my negligence to vaccinate my own. The MMR vaccine is put into place to protect us, not to hurt us.

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Is Gun Control Missing the Mark?

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By: Arthur Carlton-Jones

acarlton@terpmail.umd.edu

Copy edited: Amanda Hirsch and Kevin Qiaos

Research Edited by: Jared Bernhardt

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

The Debate:

In America today, there is a fierce debate over the issues of gun rights and gun control. Opinions on the issue are very polarized, which makes it is a heated topic. This causes most people to simply avoid the topic. Almost everyone in the United States can buy a gun and has the right to do so. Unfortunately, this means anyone could be shot, whether by a psychopath with a gun, by an armed robber, or entirely by accident. Because of this, everyone in America has a stake in this issue; no one is beyond its scope. Since the problem is so important, it should be discussed no matter how fierce or uncomfortable the conversation may be. If the issue is never discussed, most people will lack an understanding of it and make uninformed decisions based on impulse and emotion. For the purposes of this article, “gun control” is used to refer to the legislation rather than the enforcement thereof. The Unites States’ current gun control measures are ineffective because there is not a great enough understanding of what causes people to commit gun homicides to know if regulation is the best approach to stopping this. The use of guns which are regulated, such as “assault rifles”, has not contributed nearly as significantly to the homicide rates as the use of other guns has; and despite regulation of guns in schools, children still bring guns.

The Issues:

Liberals, the primary proponents of gun regulation, would argue that if gun regulations reduce gun-related homicides, they are effective. Conservatives, the primary adversaries of gun control, would argue that gun regulations would only be effective if they profoundly reduced gun-related homicides while not compromising one’s freedom.

From 1999 to 2014, the annual rate of gun-related homicides decreased by 0.45 per hundred thousand people.[1] Liberals might attribute this to increases in gun regulations during this time; however, conservatives might argue, as Edward Erler does in his article “The Second Amendment as an Expression of First Principles”, that this decrease in homicides occurred because “Over the past two decades, gun ownership has increased dramatically.”[2] This is exactly the problem with gun control; one has no way of knowing if regulations are having their intended effect.

It is quite obvious, though, when regulation is not achieving its purpose, such as new gun control aimed at reducing school shootings. These regulations are not effective because many juveniles in the inner-city still bring guns to school.[3] This just goes to show: if someone wants to kill someone, they will find a way; no amount of gun control will stop them.

There has been a recent push to place heavy regulations on “assault weapons”, which are mainly semiautomatic rifles. These guns fall under the general category of long guns. While both homicides due to long guns and hand guns have decreased from 1999 to 2014, there have been far fewer homicides committed with long guns than with hand guns.[1] This indicates why increasing regulations on “assault weapons” is a wasted effort. Gun control should certainly not be imposed on “assault weapons” because they are used in homicides far less than other guns.

Many gun regulations are proposed out of fear or misunderstandings that arises from a lack of discussion of the issue. “Semiautomatic rifles are labeled assault weapons because of their appearance, not their mechanics.”[4] There are, however, some other gun regulations which have a purpose. For example, “sawed-off shotguns, short-barreled rifles, silencers, machine guns, and” any other type of gun that acts like a rifle or shotgun but can be easily concealed “are effectively banned.”[5] Regulation of these modified guns could actually reduce the gun-related homicide rates.

The Bottom Line

The Unites States’ current gun control measures—especially involving “assault weapons” and preventing school shootings—are ineffective because there is not a great enough understanding of what causes people to commit gun homicides. In addition to this, current gun control measures target the guns which are certainly not causing the problem, if there is a problem at all. Even though there are some aspects of gun control that work as they are intended, gun control sacrifices too much freedom for not enough safety and homicide prevention. As the quote by Benjamin Franklin usually goes, “One who would give up freedom for security deserves neither and will lose both.” Since increases in gun control have not resulted in a net beneficial result, no more gun regulations should be implemented.

Stereotyping in the United States

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By Anna Salomon Pasapera

Copy Edited by: Lizbeth Yorio and Dominique Croons

Research Edited by: Sean Cotnam

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

The issue of racism and prejudice is an increasing issue in the United States. The U.S. is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and it is important that we treat everyone as equals, regardless of race or ethnicity. Throughout history, Latinos in America have been portrayed as criminals, unintelligent, lazy workers, and illegal by the media. Now, this has stretched to drug dealers and rapists. The impacts that stereotypes and prejudice have against Hispanics are huge and can vary from something as vast as creating international conflict, to loss of employment and depression for the victims of the discrimination.

Not All Stereotypes Are Bad?

Some people argue that not all stereotypes are bad. However, those who make this argument most likely have never experienced discrimination themselves or, have never had any direct involvement with it. In this country, that category consists of mostly white males or, those in the upper class, and sometimes politicians. There are times when stereotypes are used to put people into a category; according to an article by Heidi Burgess, the groups they belong to are used to help people make educated inferences about how those people will behave based on their grouping.[1] Making these inferences can be helpful in human interaction. Generalizations about a group can aid people in determining what kind of behavior is appropriate or not with certain groups. Stereotypes can be seen as a good thing as long as they are accurate, it is when they are incorrect that they tend to be a problem.

The more common argument is that stereotypes are unacceptable at all times. According to the article “Impact Of Latino Stereotypes: Latin Americans Viewed Most Negatively In Immigrant Comparison Study” by Sarah Gates from the Huffington Post, Latino stereotypes can have a significantly negative impact on the way people view immigration.[2] Discriminating against others because of their race can be very disrespectful and hurtful regardless of the purpose. Whether a stereotypical statement is offensive or not should be up to the group being patronized. Most of the time these groups find these comments insulting and demeaning. According to the Migration Policy Institute, stereotypes can cost people their jobs, and consequently their homes and opportunities at a successful life. This opinion is held mostly by the more liberal population and those who have experienced discrimination first hand.

My Side

As someone who has experienced discrimination multiple times throughout my life, I stand behind the argument that stereotypes are never ok. Although they may have good intentions, and are not trying to be negative, I think that any form of classifying people is not right, especially if we are trying to be a country that promotes equality. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority groups in the US, and deserve to be treated as a part of this country being that they will soon make up a significant chunk of the population. Any type of grouping can be hurtful to people, even if it isn’t negative. Nobody should be able to tell other people what group they belong to, or to make generalizations about them. More often than not, stereotypes are found to be degrading and can cause more harm than good.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that prejudice against any group, in this case Latinos, is inappropriate and should be addressed immediately. Like Judith Cofer Ortiz said in her well written personal essay, “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria”, “I hope the stories I tell, the dreams and fears I examine in my work, can achieve some universal truth which will get my audience past the particulars of my skin color, my accent, or my clothes.”[3] Cofer, like many Latinos, agrees that we are more than just a skin color, and she claims that the only way to change people’s divisive perceptions, is to replace these ideals with a “set of realities”. Abolishing stereotypes in this country should be of top priority due to the large amount of diversity. I think that it is important for this nation, as well as for individual citizens, to act as one to be successful.

Single Payer Health Care, Reform or Not?

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By: Kevin Qiao

Copy Edited by: Lizbeth Yorio and Dominique Croons

Research Edited by Brett Levenstein

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

While healthcare reform has always been a heated topic, most average Americans do not fully understand its complexities. One topic sometimes brought up is reforming to a single payer system. Under a single payer health care system, the government would pay for health care costs instead of insurance companies. This system is currently used in countries like Canada, England, France and Taiwan. Although these countries implemented their health care structures in different ways, their governments are all responsible for health care costs. On the other hand, the United States has a multi-payer system where healthcare is provided by insurance companies. Given the large amount of debate and studies done on this topic, should we change to a single payer health care system?

What supporters argue

Supporters of a single payer system are often left-wing Americans such as Democrats. They often believe that it would decrease the cost of healthcare by eliminating tactics used by companies to make more money.[1] By having the government run healthcare directly, supporters argue that Americans get better access to healthcare. They also believe that the decreased costs could improve access to care. To back their argument, supporters will often use countries such as Canada and Taiwan as examples of successful implementations. In Canada, a study has shown that there was no long-term decrease in physician pay after reforming. [2] This is usually used as evidence by supporters to show that a single payer system does not lead to a decrease in doctor’s pays. They also bring up Taiwan’s health care system and point out that they would avoid long wait times.[3] Given these benefits, supporters of a single payer system argue that reforming will benefit the U.S.

What opponents believe

Opponents of a single payer health care system are usually right-wing Americans such as Republicans. They often argue that the system would decrease physician pay.[4] They believe that this would lead to a shortage of doctors and decrease the quality of care, particularly with specialty care. Opponents also frequently mention the long wait times for hip replacements in Canada as examples of the shortcomings of a single payer system. They also argue that the system would be economically unsound. Certain studies have analyzed the economic feasibility of a single payer system and found that the decrease in health care premiums would not balance the increases in taxes needed to support a single payer system. In addition, opponents believe that it is economically impossible to balance quality and quantity. They cite a study that examined the economics of a single payer system and found that it was ineffective at delivering quality that will always satisfy customer demands. [5] Using these arguments, opponents argue that the U.S. should not switch to a single payer system.

My conclusion

In the end, I believe that a single payer system will be better than the current system but only if it can imitate other successful implementations. These implementations could avoid problems that are often associated with single payer systems such as doctor shortages and declining quality of care. In addition, a successfully implemented single payer system could be able to improve access to primary care for everyone regardless of social status. In the end, the challenge would be to design a system that could reap the benefits, while avoiding the associated problems.

Alleviating Mental Health Stigma

By: Matthew Quach

Copy Edited By: Amanda Hirsch and Maggie McPherson

Research Edited by: Sean Cotnam

Format Edited By: Arthur Carlton-Jones

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General Psychiatric Stigma

Mental illness has always been an issue that is kept into a hushed regulation. Don’t see, don’t tell. In individuals, the main stake is embarrassment, a negative outlook on admitting that they have this mental illness.[1] This embarrassment is coined as self-stigma. In addition to this, poor mental health, and the inability to admit having it also results in poor self-esteem, recovery, and general lack of self worth.[2] Issues within a localized community also cause what is known as cultural-stigma. Unlike self-stigma, cultural-stigma is much less easily remedied. This is due to the lack of change in a cultural phenomena and attitudes towards mental illness from which stigma had cultivated. Such outlooks are unlikely to shift.

Cultural/Health Factors in Relation

In Hispanic communities, intervention and religions means are commonplace substitutes for more scientific and medical means of care. However, the prominence of education concerning mental health issues in schools is breaking such traditional treatments in favor of more modern and effective treatment options. Though education in these modern techniques is being injected into these communities, college educated folk will still find themselves falling back onto the more primal forms of intervention, showing that cultural practices are indeed ingrained.[3] Cultural practices will always take precedent, for they are the comfortable home remedy. Though these practices mean well, they are most usually ineffective.

Within the San Diego area, Women claimed to have experienced more stigma than that of their male counterparts. Males on the other hand, take a less positive stance in tackling the issue at hand. In both genders, the younger the individual, the increased likelihood of being discriminated against.[4]  Age is the most definitive factor. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, the elderly are the most susceptible to poor mental health. In a research effort conducted in an urban area, and one of rural environment, both groups showed similar outlooks when concerning seeking out help.[5]It is expected that more populous, urban communities would more likely be tolerant and accepting, an effect of modern progression of idealism and thought. However, with this study, it appears that such a polarization is nonexistent. Instead, it is bound to an individualistic approach. Those who need help, will generally come out to seek it at more advanced ages.   

Attempts in Change

Though advancements in the treatment and identification of mental health are seemingly adequate, there could always be an improvement. In an extensive stunt by several psychologists, they called for pediatricians to increase their reach in discovering mental illness.[6] Involvement, the want to often mitigates proper care. Services must be wholly accepted to make an substantial effect. Thus, a preventative movement from medical clinics and facilities would alleviate much of this. Along the topic of mental facilities and their care, a modern critique of the mental health system as is, calls for a more quantitative approach. Agencies would need to take an active duty in diverting mental health stigma, a change which incites a positive change of the global health agenda.

It is believed that contact with those afflicted with mental health issues and other unaffected members of society is pivotal in empathy. Governments in the United States have thus, launched nationwide campaigns to project this message into the public.[7] To eliminate archaic thoughts and relical assumptions of mental health and dissipate negative stereotypes, it is necessary to create a commotion within the public, as education within the school system is not enough to compound the agenda into relevance.   

Conclusive Thoughts

Mental health is the illness that is hidden. It is not always eminent and thus, is a difficult problem to postulate and draw out properly, if the affected population does not make attempts to better themselves and seek help. Thus, the blocking of this seeking is blamed onto the negative view of poor mental health: Stigma. Stigmatic relations within a community will cause the general public to be ashamed of their state and not seek out help because of their disposition. In the modern era, mental health is not so much a taboo in the United States and medication is offered readily. In minority groups, there is a deficit in care for mental health. It is not a populous issue, because it has been galvanized into obscurity, and will not be attended to effectively. Eventually, it is likely to become a matter that is comfortable, as indicated by the progression of its understanding.  

Pulling the Trigger on Gun Control

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By: Megan Kee

Email: mkee@terpmail.umd.edu

Copy edited by: Maggie McPherson

Research Edited by: Jared Bernhardt

The presidential debates have just concluded, and the presidential election are right around the corner. Among the topics discussed were the high profile shootings of minorities, and gun control. In both politics and the daily lives of Americans, people often debate whether or not stricter gun control laws should be implemented. Each new occurrence of a mass shooting or the murder of a widely admired person, such as Christina Grimmie, spark new controversies on gun control.

Gun control laws of the United States regulate the sale, possession, and use, of firearms  and ammunition. These regulations have been a hotly debated topic for decades. They vary considerably depending on the state however. For example, each state has its own laws regarding the right-to-carry. Other gun control laws restrict the magazine capacity, or regulate whether or not you need a permit to purchase handguns or long guns.

There have been many cases where people, both legally and illegally, obtain firearms only to go on a shooting spree, killing dozens. James Holmes, 24, opened fire at a Century movie theater, killing 12, and injuring 70, at the 2012 Aurora shooting. Adam Lanza, 20, opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, killing 27, including his mother, and injuring 2. Christina Grimmie, 22, was shot by 27-year-old Kevin James Loibl while signing autographs following her performance, Before You Exit, in Orlando June of 2016.

So Why Not Implement Stricter Gun Control?

If someone is dead-set on acquiring guns for malicious intent, they will do it either legally or illegally. Instead of protecting lives, imposing stricter gun control laws will only serve to infringe upon the United States’ citizens’ Second Amendment. People have a right to bear arms; taking away guns won’t solve anything, but will instead violate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

People have noted that a good portion of those committing the mass shootings have psychological issues. Adam Lanza, perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. James Holmes, perpetrator of the Aurora shooting, was found to have been, “depressed and obsessed with murder since about the age of 14”. He had also been, “seeing a psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia.”. According to the National Institutes of Health, there have been findings suggesting that, “up to 60% of perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States since 1970 displayed symptoms including acute paranoia, delusions, and depression before committing their crimes.”.

Instead of focusing on treating a symptom of the problem with stricter gun control, the focus should be on the root of the problem, by ensuring that the mentally ill get proper care and treatment.

Aren’t There Some Benefits Though?

Stricter laws will increase public safety in some way and will reduce the number of casualties from gun related deaths. Currently, there are no laws forbidding the sale of firearms to people on a watch list, or a no-fly list. If their rights are curtailed, then the chances of people dying from gun-related murder, whether it be mass shootings, domestic violence, or anything else, can potentially decrease.

In cases such as domestic abuse, implementing a waiting period for gun purchases can save the lives of the abused. The waiting period, sometimes ten days, will allow the abuser to cool off and decide against making rash decisions. It also decreases the chances that a depressed individual makes an impulsive decision to commit suicide.

In other cases, homeowners buy guns to store in their houses for self-defense. On March 24, 2016, “a homeowner shot an intruder who tried to break into her Indianapolis home Thursday afternoon.” Had the homeowner not owned a gun, it is possible that both her and her baby could have been shot to death.

The Bottom Line

We need to administer gun control to a certain degree. With the right gun control laws, we should be able to protect citizens while still respecting their rights. Laws forbidding people on watch lists, or no-fly lists, from buying guns add another level of safety withoutt stripping guns from citizens completely. However, we should also not forget to investigate the studies proclaiming that the majority of mass shootings are committed by people with mental illnesses. We should refrain from implementing excessive laws based on mental illness cases. If we are to make the country a safer place, we must find the perfect balance between regulation and freedom.

Should stem cells continue to be researched?

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By: Alyssa Larsen

Copy edited by: Matthew Quach and Maggie McPherson

Research edited by: Jared Bernhardt

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

The original discovery of the many applications of stem cells in 1998 was a huge innovation in medicine.[1] These cells are in the most primitive form and have no set function. Therefore, they are able to easily adapt to a new environment of specialized cells (such as muscle, blood, or brain cells). This finding provided a way to possibly regenerate, heal, or replace any cells damaged by a multitude of illnesses. Stem cell research affects an extremely widespread population of patients due to its possible ability to treat such a wide range of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and many other degenerative conditions.

Why do people support this research?

Most members of the scientific community favor researching stem cells due to their immense potential to revolutionize the ways we can treat illnesses. For example, stem cells can be used to regenerate damaged cells caused by radiation treatment for cancer. They also have been used in transplant medicine to completely construct a new, simple organ that is readily able to replace the damaged one.[2] ESCs and iPSCs are favored because they are so primal and therefore can adapt much more effectively than regular adult stem cells. This is not to say, however, that stem cell scientists support destroying embryos. The general opinion of the science community is that these embryos used for research deserve a special respect for their contribution to medicine.[3] In fact, some supporters even say that embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization or legal abortions should be allowed to be obtained for research purposes instead of being discarded.[4]

Other supporters may have a strong personal connection to this research if they themselves or their loved ones suffer from a disease that can possibly be treated through stem cell therapy. From a medical perspective, stem cell research truly seems to be beneficial for the majority of the population. Although this treatment may seem like a perfect solution on paper, many ethical issues arise from it. One type of stem cell is derived from the blastocyst form of embryos (comprised of about 8-10 cells) that people donate for research.[5] Although these cells are effective in their medical use, there is a question of whether or not destroying these early-stage embryos is considered murder.

In attempt to resolve this problem, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were created in 2006.[6] iPSCs are virtually identical to the embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in terms of structure and function. However, they are derived from adult cells and are then genetically manipulated. Now there are no ethical issues with this research, right? Wrong. Those against stem cell research continued their arguments by claiming things like iPSCs too closely resembled ESCs.

Why not?

Some people are extremely concerned with the apparent ethical wrongdoings involved with this research since the use of ESCs involves the destruction of the embryo. Although the embryos used are only miniscule bundles of cells, some feel that this still constitutes the destruction of a human life.

In politics, “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” is a huge discord, and these viewpoints are associated with the opinions on stem cell research. Critics fall largely under the “pro-life” category for ethical and/or religious reasons and see ESC research as a violation of their beliefs. Although iPSCs were created to resolve this issue, people still oppose their use due to their resemblance to human embryos, and also because of the possibility of human cloning.

The bottom line:

So many diseases are in this uncured standstill, and we seem to just accept that they will remain that way until some scientist comes up with the answer. Stem cells could very well be that answer we are looking for, but how will we ever know if the research doesn’t continue to be funded? Unfortunately, the many societal questions and doubts of such research limit the ability of these stem cells to be utilized to their full extent.

This topic is extremely controversial, but a balance between both the medical benefits and societal concerns would allow stem cell research to be more effective and beneficial in all aspects. iPSCs were specifically developed in order to diminish the main ethical opposition against using embryos, so they at least should be able to be used without further constraint.