There is an estimated 4 million children who die of vaccine preventable diseases each year, and still another 4 million who are permanently disabled. Vaccines are essential in stopping the spread of serious diseases, yet there still are many who don’t understand the importance of them. With appropriate application of vaccines, there can be a huge reduction and even eradication of preventable disease like measles or poliomyelitis. But in order the ensure vaccines are being properly distributed, we must understand some common misconceptions about immunizations and why vaccines are not only important for an individual , but for the surrounding community as well.
A vaccine contains an attenuated or killed off form of a disease causing microbe that stimulates the body’s immune system to create antibodies against that specifc foreign agent so the next time it encounters the disease, the body will be prepared to fight it off (WHO, 2018). Vaccines are made by either changing the genes of the virus so it replicates poorly, using only part of the virus or bacteria so it cannot replicate at all, or taking the toxins from the bacteria which are killed with chemical and purified. Once the vaccine has been thoroughly tested and approved by the FDA, it can administered to the public. These vaccines go through numerous test to make sure they are safe and productive.
Regardless of the importance, there are myths that are preventing the practice of vaccinations. A common one is that vaccines can cause autism. Sure, there are possible be side effects that can occur after receiving a vaccination, but there has been plenty of research done to prove that vaccines and autism are not linked. The scientist Andrew Wakefield was the first to propose this theory. He claimed the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism after out of his study of 12 children, 8 of them complained of intestinal issues and one developed autism after a month of receiving the vaccine. But it was quickly proven unreliable and fraudulent based on the little data he collected and falsified information. Scientists were able to retract his study from scientific record because it critically flawed for many reasons. Autism is not a disease that is immune-mediated, therefore a vaccine, which induces an immune response, cannot cause autism to spontaneously occur (Plotkin, Gerber, & Offit, 2009).
While vaccines are directed towards an individual, herd immunity is a way to extend vaccine benefits to an entire community. Herd immunity is term used to describe the resistance to the spread of disease that occurs when a high proportion of individuals within a population are immune to disease. This works to help keep high contagiously diseases at bay, but is only effective if the majority of the population is vaccinated. The importance of having herd immunity was first seen with smallpox. Because smallpox was so contagious, the goal was to immunize at least 80% of the population. Vaccinations were able to reduce the spread of this disease so significantly it was finally eradicated in 1977 (Kim, Johnstone, & Loeb, 2011). This shows just how important vaccines are for not only an individual, but for the surrounding community. There are some people to rely herd immunity for protection because they are unable to received vaccinations due to compromised immune systems. These groups include those who are on chemotherapy treatments, those with HIV, elderly people, newborns, and very sick people in the hospital.
Vaccines are of great importance to a community as a whole. They are a simple and protective way to ensure people develop a lifelong immunity to certain diseases. Vaccinations have greatly reduced the spread of infectious disease and have helped to eradicate some. Furthermore, have prevented almost 6 million deaths worldwide and also help to prevent antibiotic resistance by reducing the need for antibiotics. Vaccines are a safe, effective way to care for every member in society.
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