What is a vaccination?
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (Bartolotti, 2009). Even though Mr. Franklin was talking about fire prevention, it applies to the affirmation that all children that are medically able to be vaccinated. It is smarter to prevent a child from getting a disease rather than dealing with the disease itself and its effects.
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The definition of vaccine is “a biological product that helps humans or other animals develop immunities that protect them from one or more diseases” (Blume, 1942). Vaccines are given to infants, children and adults to help protect the individual from obtaining certain diseases. There are some who do not believe in vaccinations for various reasons, but the majority of the people do choose to vaccinate their children. There is good reason for this position. In spite of concerns of autism, vaccine safety and unnecessary immunizations, it should be mandatory by law to vaccinate every child who is medically able in the United States because of the protection it gives our children against preventable diseases, the protection of those who cannot receive vaccinations and for financial savings.
Vaccines are vital to protect our children against infectious diseases. A good example of this is the chickenpox vaccine. The proof is in the numbers. Offit and Moser (2011) describe how the chickenpox vaccine was introduced in 1995 and the number of reported cases of chickenpox dropped by 90% after the first year of children receiving the vaccine! They go on to state the rotavirus has dropped from about three million cases a year to only 300,000 since 2006. Other preventable diseases such as meningitis, polio and measles also show much-reduced numbers since the vaccines for them has been introduced (Offit & Moser, 2011).
A well-vaccinated population also protects those who are unable to receive vaccines. Some examples would be people who have HIV, are taking immune suppressive drugs, or otherwise immune compromised (Offit & Moser, 2011). In his article:” The Anti-vaccine Movement Endangers the Disabled” (Rhodes 2013) explains that even though these individuals are not able to receive the vaccines they are protected by what is called “Herd Immunity”. If the majority of the population is vaccinated, then the diseases don’t spread and those who can’t receive the shots are also protected. Others protected by herd immunity are children too young to receive the vaccine, and older population who have not received vaccines, or their resistance is low (Rhodes, 2013).
One issue typically not thought of when discussing the reasons to immunize a child is a financial one. (Feemster, 2018) acknowledges vaccines can be expensive, up to $1600.00 per child, but the cost of one Emergency Department visit and treatment for something as simple as dehydration caused by the rotavirus could cost up to $5000.00. She further states if the child ends up with any disability such as a baby needing heart surgery because of rubella, the costs will skyrocket (Feemster. 2018).
Dr. McCarthy points out the costs of not immunizing your child is not limited to the cost of treating the disease contracted but also in time lost from work. Every day spent at home or the hospital taking care of a sick child is a full day’s pay that is not received (Campbell, 2012). Imagine the consequences if the child is so sick that a parent misses a month or more of work. Jobs could be lost, bankruptcies filed, relationships strained all of which could have been avoided by a simple vaccination.
There are many reasons people object to immunizing themselves or their children, and though I believe these people truly believe they are doing what is best for their child, I also believe their reasoning is off base and there are facts to prove it.
The claim most commonly heard is that vaccines, specifically the MMR vaccine causes autism. According to Offit and Moser, (2017) There are two claims that state the MMR vaccine can cause autism. The first came about in 1998 from researchers in England who believed autism was caused by the combination of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella given in one injection. This theory was quickly disproved by later studies. They further state that it wasn’t the combination of the MMR vaccine, but the thimerosal, a preservative added to the MMR and other vaccines that could be the cause or a contributor to autism (Offit & Moser, 2017).
Many studies were performed to examine if there was a link between thimerosal (a form of mercury) and autism. Congress have reviewed over 2200 studies done between 2004 and 2011and there was no evidence in a relationship between the thimerosal in vaccines and autism (Vaccines, 2015). Even though there was no proof that thimerosal caused autism, and due to public fear, The American Academy of Pediatrics asked that thimerosal be removed from the vaccines (Offit & Moser, 2017). There has been no thimerosal in childhood vaccines with the exception of some flu vaccines since 2001(Schaefer, 2001). Studies have also been conducted in the years since showing autism rates are the same no matter if a child got a vaccine containing thimerosal or if they were vaccinated with ones that didn’t (Offit & Moser, 2017).
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Another argument to be refuted is that vaccines in general are not safe. The simple answer is yes, vaccines are safe. Vaccines must go through a very stringent process before they are licensed by the U.S Food and Drug Administration or the FDA. According to the CDC (Center for Disease control and Prevention) a vaccine must go through clinical trials. These trials look into the effectiveness of the vaccine, the proper dosage needed and any side effects that may occur. The CDC states by the time the clinical trials are complete “hundreds or thousands of volunteers [have] participated [in the trial]” (Johanson, 2017).
Once a vaccine is licensed by the FDA has a monitoring system called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or VAERS (Johanson, 2017). According to the CDC medical professional submit any adverse effects they find in patients from a vaccine. The VAERS system keeps track of the side effects and there are studies completed to see if the side effects are actually caused by the vaccine or not (Bartolotti, 2009). With this process in place it is clearly shown that vaccines given to our children in the United States are safe.
Lastly there is the objection that vaccines are given needlessly. People tend to think, well, no one gets diphtheria, measles or mumps anymore, why should I vaccinate my child against them? Someone with the measles could easily enter the US and infect those who are not immune. The article goes on to state that the US believed measles were no longer a threat in 2000, but by 2014 there were 667 cases reported. This happened because although there were no cases of measles in the US in 2000, there were in other parts of the world and people traveled in with the disease and infected someone who had not been immunized.
Others argue that we should let our children be exposed naturally to such diseases as chickenpox or even the measles. (Feemster, 2018 ) admits that natural immunity usually does give better immunity than vaccines, but that it comes at a price. So many complications can come from having a simple childhood disease such as pneumonia, birth defects and even death (Feemster, 2018). It is much safer and smarter to immunize.
Because of vaccines we live in a world where we do not have to be afraid our child will die from the measles, we don’t worry about smallpox or polio. Our children are safer and live longer thanks to the availability of these immunizations. Our government has put into place a stringent, organized system to ensure the vaccinations are safe and the side effects are known (Rhodes, 2013 ). Vaccines are safe, they are needed, and most importantly they save lives.
- Bartolotti, Charles. (2009). The H1N1 influenza pandemic. New York. Nova Science Publishers
- Blume, Stuart. (1942). Immunizations, how vaccines became controversial. London. Reaktion Books.
- Campbell, Braydon, (2012). Vaccinations, procedures, types and controversy. N.Y. Nova Biomedical.
- Feemster, Kristen. (2018). Vaccines what everyone needs to know. New York, NY. Oxford University Press.
- Johanson, Paula. (2017). Critical perspectives on vaccinations. New York, New York, Enslow Publishing.
- Offit, Paul, and Charlotte Moser. (2011). Vaccines and Your Child. Separating Fact from Fiction. Columbia University Press
- Rhodes, John. (2013). The end of plagues : the global battle against infectious disease. New York. Palgrave Macmillan
- Schaefer, Christof. (2007). Drugs and vaccinations during pregnancy and lactation. Amsterdam, New York. Elsevier.2wsx
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Vaccinations train the immune system in the body to fight against infectious diseases. They contain a dead or weakened pathogen that will not cause any symptoms of the disease. The immune system will continue to produce antibodies due to the foreign antigens on the surface of the pathogen.
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