New SAT Reading Practice Test 91: Vaccinations

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Two scientists present their views on vaccinations.


Smoking tobacco causes cancer. It causes
small cell and squamous cell cancers of the
lung, as well as oral and nasopharyngeal
carcinoma, gastrointestinal carcinoma, and
05cancers of half a dozen additional tissues. It
is highly correlated with the second leading
cause of death in the United States, and the
decision to not smoke reduces one's risk of
lung cancer by more than half. This information
10will surprise no one. It is, therefore,
baffling that 1 in 5 Americans continues to
use tobacco. Yet there is one behavior on
the rise that is still more contrary to human
health than smoking—and perhaps more
15inexplicable as well, as it cannot be explained
away by chemical dependence, nor by social
custom. I speak, of course, of the decision to
not vaccinate one's children.
There is apparently a belief among these
20erring individuals that the ailments against
which the Centers for Disease Control recommends
we vaccinate are somehow less
serious than we, as a society, have been led
to believe. There is a belief, moreover, that
25because these diseases are easily preventable
through modern medical science, they must,
implicitly, be easily treatable as well. Let us
clarify this matter.
Not long before it was eradicated by
30vaccination, smallpox virus erased entire
cultures on two continents, where fatality
rates rose as high as 90%. For those who
survived, it was a cause of permanent, often
debilitating disfigurement. Prior to the HiB
35and DTaP vaccines, epiglottitis caused by
Haemophilus influenzae, and diphtheria
caused by Corynebacterium diptheriae were
both exceedingly common causes of death
in young children, largely because of their
40tendency to develop rapidly and obstruct the
airway. Death typically occurs well before
medical attention can be accessed, and thus,
in spite of all our modern medical advances,
these diseases remain just as dire as they
45were two hundred years earlier.
We could continue this list. In the past,
for instance, rubella was the most common
cause of congenital deafness, and mumps
a major cause of sterility. Children who
50survived the measles, meanwhile, ran and
still run the risk of the virus reemerging years
later as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis,
a frequently fatal infection of the brain. The
point, however, is clear. Vaccination is neither
55a conspiracy, nor merely a matter of modern
convenience; nor is it entirely without risk.
But vaccination, plainly put, is the only effective
medical intervention to safeguard our
children from some of the deadliest and most
60virulent diseases known to man.


Let us dispense entirely with the fallacies
and the delusions; there is not an analytically
credible source on the planet that will defend
a link between vaccines and autism spectrum
65disorder. But for many conscientious parents
who choose not to vaccinate their children,
the decision is based not on delusion, but
upon a simple, mathematical reality.
Philosophically, medicine is premised on a
70balance between beneficence, and nonmaleficence.
That is to say, for a medical intervention
to be deemed ethical and appropriate,
the risks of not treating an individual must
always outweigh the risks inherent in the
75treatment itself. Risk accompanies every
medical intervention, and vaccination is no
exception. Specifically, in a certain subset
of individuals, exposure to either the gelatin
or egg protein components used to stabilize
80vaccines can result in a life-threatening
anaphylactic reaction. Additionally, so-called
"live-attenuated vaccines", including those
for varicella, rotavirus, and MMR, contain
living strains of their corresponding pathogens
85that, through genetic modification,
have been rendered pathologically inert.
Rarely, these attenuated strains may undergo
mutation, and revert back to their pathogenic
forms. Immunocompromised individuals,
90such as those infected with HIV, are particularly
at risk for this dangerous outcome.
While it is true that adverse vaccine
events are uncommon, it is equally true
that, within the American population, most
95diseases against which vaccinations protect
are uncommon—more uncommon, in fact,
than the incidence of adverse vaccine events.
Thus, so long as the majority of the American
population remains vaccinated, an unvaccinated
100individual will be well-protected
through a phenomenon described as "herd
immunity." The decision not to vaccinate,
therefore, hangs upon an appreciation of the
dynamic balance between beneficence and
105nonmaleficence as it pertains to the individual.
While some may argue that taking
advantage of such a strategy violates an ethical
obligation to society, one cannot help but
wonder: when presented with the numbers,
110will these individuals truly value the health
of society above that of their children? Their
math, I would wager, just doesn't add up.

1. With respect to the author's argument as a whole, lines 1-12 ("Smoking . . . tobacco") most strongly serve to

  • A. show the obvious absurdity of a personal decision to set up the argument that follows.
  • B. highlight the primary topic of the essay.
  • C. provide key statistics on both tobacco and vaccination research .
  • D. illustrate the irrationality of widespread tobacco use given the latest scientific research.

2. The primary purpose of lines 19-27 ("There is . . . as well") is to

  • A. cite scholarly evidence in support of the author's thesis.
  • B. present the alternative views that the author will later dissect.
  • C. underscore the author's fundamental respect for opposing viewpoints.
  • D. give a vital clarification to the author's argument.

3. As used in line 30, the word "erased" most closely means

  • A. transported.
  • B. eliminated.
  • C. fought.
  • D. affected.

4. The author of Passage 2 would most likely agree that an unvaccinated individual would be most likely to survive

  • A. under no circumstances.
  • B. if he or she took preventative measures based on alternative medicine.
  • C. if he or she were careful to remain immunocompromised.
  • D. in a society where virtually everyone else is vaccinated.

5. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 61-65 ("Let us . . . disorder")
  • B. Lines 77-81 ("Specifically . . . reaction")
  • C. Lines 87-91 ("Rarely . . . outcome")
  • D. Lines 98-102 ("Thus . . . immunity")

6. As used in line 61, the phrase "dispense entirely with" most closely means

  • A. fundamentally understand.
  • B. physically remove.
  • C. somewhat ignore.
  • D. do away with.

7. What is the overall relationship between the two passages?

  • A. Passage 1 strongly disagrees with the tolerance of non-vaccination in Passage 2.
  • B. Passage 1 uses a more scientific approach while Passage 2 is more mathematical.
  • C. Passage 2 advocates careful cost-benefit analysis while Passage 1 advocates decisive policies.
  • D. Passage 2 attempts to explain a phenomenon that Passage 1 deems inexplicable.

8. The author of Passage 2 would most likely respond to the final sentence of Passage 1 (lines 57-60) by stating that it

  • A. contradicts widespread thinking.
  • B. needs an important qualification.
  • C. is overly influenced by popular opinion.
  • D. is insufficiently paranoid.

9. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 65-68 ("But for . . . reality")
  • B. Lines 71-75 ("That is . . . itself")
  • C. Lines 81-86 ("Additionally . . . inert")
  • D. Lines 92-97 ("While it . . . events")

10. The respective attitudes of the authors of Passage 1 and Passage 2 toward parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are best described as

  • A. hatred and appreciation.
  • B. forgiveness and intolerance.
  • C. loathing and gratitude.
  • D. contempt and understanding.