Vaccination: Better Safe than Sorry

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Vaccination helps protect the human body from serious diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, or germs through the administration of antigenic material to stimulate an individual’s immune system to develop adaptive immunity to a pathogen. Widespread immunity due to vaccination is largely responsible for the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the restriction of diseases such as polio, measles, and tetanus from much of the world.

Smallpox was most likely the first disease people attempted to prevent by inoculating themselves, and was the first disease for which a vaccine was produced. The smallpox vaccine was produced in 1796 by British physician Edward Jenner.

Most vaccines contain a little bit of a disease germ that is weak or dead; certainly not the amount that would make you sick. Having this little bit of the germ inside your body causes your body’s defense system to build antibodies to fight off this kind of germ. Antibodies help trap and kill germs that could lead to disease; your body can make antibodies in two ways: by getting the disease or by getting the vaccine.

Getting the vaccine is a much safer way to make antibodies without suffering from the disease itself, and the risk of becoming disabled, or even dying. Antibodies stay with you for a long time; they remember how to fight off the germ. If the real germ that causes this disease, and not the vaccine, enters your body in the future, your defense system knows how to fight it off. Often, your defense system will remember how to fight a germ for the rest of your life; sometimes, however, your defense system needs a booster shot.

To eliminate the risk of outbreaks of some diseases, at various times, several governments and other institutions have instituted policies requiring vaccination for all people. Beginning with early vaccinations in the 19th century, these policies were resisted by a variety of groups, collectively called anti-vaccinationists, who object on scientific, ethical, political, medical safety, religious, and other grounds.

Common objections are that vaccinations do not work, that compulsory vaccination represents excessive government intervention in personal matters, or that the proposed vaccinations are not sufficiently safe. Many modern vaccination policies allow exemptions for people who have compromised immune systems, or allergies to the components used in vaccinations, or strongly held objections. There are usually two sides to the vaccination debate and those are the pro-vaccine group and the pro-choice group.

The first group is basically concerned with the troubling statistics, which show that the failure to vaccinate children endangers both the health of children themselves as well as others who would not be exposed to preventable illness if the community as a whole were better protected.

Equally troubling, the number of deliberately unvaccinated children has grown large enough that it may be fueling more severe outbreaks. In a recent survey of more than 1500 parents, one-quarter held the mistaken belief that vaccines can cause autism in healthy children, and more than one in ten had refused at least one recommended vaccine.

The second group argues against vaccination laws. They stress that everyone should have the right to free, and informed consent for all medical interventions, including vaccinations. By abridging the right to such is to trample the essential human rights to life, liberty, and bodily integrity. The current vaccine policy violates these fundamental rights by having several groups of people that are not given full free and informed consent.

It is my opinion that we all have a public health commitment to our communities, to protect each other and each other’s children by vaccinating our own family members, as long as the vaccination has been proven safe and effective. All vaccines should undergo long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and sociological experts to make sure they are perfectly safe. In the end, parents want to do everything possible to make sure their children are healthy and protected from preventable diseases. Vaccination is the best way to do that.

References
chealth.canoe.ca
scientificamerican.com
nps.org.au

 

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