Should Parents Give Their Children the MMR Vaccine?


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 [6] This study, however, was retracted and discredited.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.

Single Payer Health Care, Reform or Not?


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


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.  

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.

Is Drinking Worth it?


By: William Dong

Copy edited by: Sean Cotnam and Brett Levenstein

Research Edited by: Brett Levenstein

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

Should the U.S. government raise the drinking age?

One of the most debated topics within the current society is what the legal drinking age limit in the U.S. should be. Adolescent drinking is considered to have both positive and negative effects by various groups. Both teenagers and adults support that it possesses only negative effects on a person, but many may also support the other extreme. Drinking is used as a social lubricant and teenagers support lowering the age limit because they tend to rebel and experiment, but what they don’t know is the details of the effects alcohol can have on a person and those around them. In the worst-case scenario, alcohol could lead to traffic accidents, health problems, and even death. Should the drinking age be lowered? Or in fact be raised?

Why Should the Drinking Age Be Higher?

Teenagers tend to make questionable decisions since their brains are not fully developed. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the rationale part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until she is 25 years old or so, which makes young adults vulnerable to irreversible mistakes while under the influence. [1]

The irresponsibility of young adults with such a dangerous substance can lead to both short term and long term health issues.[2] Alcohol can result in addiction, brain damage, diseases, and even death.[3] Binge Drinking is extremely common within teenagers. The CDC states that alcohol can cause immediate effects like injuries due violence and accidents, as well as miscarriages and still births. The long-term effects of drinking include high blood pressure, learning and memory problems, depression and anxiety.[4] The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration establishes that “underage drinking is linked to 189,000 emergency room visits by people under the age of 21.”[5]

Irresponsible adolescent drinking can lead to traffic accidents and fatalities. Alcohol can cause confusion and a loss of coordination and alertness. This makes driving an extremely dangerous task. [4] During the summer going into my senior year at Wootton High School, the quarterback at our school who I knew personally was in a car with 3 other kids after they had been drinking at a typical high school party. They were speeding and swerved off the road, killing two of the teens in the car instantly while the driver and one other passenger survived. Drinking and driving ruins lives and is not something that should be taken lightly.

Why Not?

There are of course many arguments that support the drinking age to stay the same or be lowered. Teenagers tend to go through a phase of rebellion, where grey matter in the brain which processes thought and memory is not fully developed, so they end up making decisions that a regular adult would not.[6] Lowering the drinking age could help teens drink more responsibly under the supervision of adults and decrease the amount of tragedies.

Many argue that teens under the age of 18 should have the right to drink since teens older than 18 are responsible enough to vote, join the military, and even purchase tobacco products. People advocate that if the government views 18 year olds as being capable of fighting for their country and deciding their country’s leadership, they should be able to responsibly consume alcohol. Tobacco products are also considered just as addictive and harmful to a person as alcohol. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States which is one in every five deaths. [7] Furthermore, even though tobacco is just as addictive as alcohol, the CDC establishes that it causes more deaths each year than alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, HIV, and firearm-related incidents combined.[6] In theory, if tobacco is considered more dangerous than alcohol, then it would not make sense for the drinking age to be higher.

The Bottom Line:

Lowering or keeping the same drinking age could account for more teens drinking responsibly, but also could lead to more tragedies and health problems. If the U.S. government wanted to make the country a safer environment, the drinking age should be raised. Adolescents will then be older and more responsible, as their brains become more fully developed and aware of the risks of abusing alcohol.

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