Are Vaccines Really Necessary in the 21st Century?
I couldn’t believe it when my test results came back and I was not immune to measles. I am originally from Ghana, and the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) was not available there when I was a baby. I thought though that having grown up in a developing country, I will definitely be immune, but my test results said otherwise.
Don’t tell anyone, but I get a little bit nervous at the thought of a needle in my body, but knowing how important it was to be vaccinated, I agreed to take the MMR vaccine.
So, are vaccines really necessary in the 21st century? Of course they are.
1. Vaccines are given to prevent childhood diseases.
In this day and age, where the childhood diseases are not so common anymore, some people take life so much for granted. Here in America, because of immunizations, we no longer see childhood illnesses like measles, tetanus, meningitis (from deadly bacteria like Haemophilus influenza). In fact some younger doctors may not recognize these diseases because vaccines have been so effective in eradicating these illnesses. However, it only takes one unvaccinated person to start a resurgence of these illnesses, as was seen in the Disneyland case in California. As of February 17th, the number of confirmed measles cases has reached 141 cases in 17 states and the District of Columbia. To put in perspective, between 2001 to 2011, the number of measles cases per year in the US, ranged from a low of 37 to a high of 220.
2. The Benefits of Vaccinations far outweigh the risks.
In medicine, we always consider the risk benefit ratio, when prescribing and treating patients. Doctors and other providers recognize how important it is to “first do no harm.” As such, the recommendation to immunize people is not taken lightly. One of the concerns of parents when it comes to the MMR vaccine in particular is the fear that it causes autism. Several studies have shown that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Other potential vaccine side effects are pain and swelling and redness at the injection site, low grade fever, muscle aches and fatigue. Of course, there are no absolutes in medicine and though extremely rare, there is always the potential for serious adverse reactions, like an allergic reaction amongst others.
3. Vaccines provide Herd Immunity.
Herd immunity (also called community immunity) is when the vaccination of a significant portion of the community provides immunity or protection for individuals who have not developed immunity. This applies to diseases that are infectious. Unfortunately, there is a small group of people who for various reasons can truly not take vaccines, people with depressed immunity, organ transplant recipients or allergies to different components of the vaccine. If enough people in a population are immunized it provides protection even for those who genuinely cannot be immunized.
4. Educate yourself
As parents, our children depend on us to protect them. It is extremely important that you educate yourself, and not depend on what your religious leaders, family members, the media or even people in the medical community tell you about vaccines. Knowledge is power and gives you opportunity to decide. Take advantage of the opportunity we have every day to use that knowledge to protect our children.
5. Vaccines save lives.
Some vaccine preventable diseases can potentially cause death. Parents often say vaccines are not safe and I choose not to vaccinate my child. I tell parents that coming from a developing country I have actually treated children with some of these illnesses and if parents could see the potential for death and serious complications from these diseases, they would not be so complacent about immunizations. Rubella is a mild illness for most, but when a pregnant woman gets infected, there is about a 90% chance of the baby being born with severe birth defects, if it survives at all.
According to the Global immunization section of the CDC, 400, unimmunized children die from measles every day, 16 an hour. You see, not everyone has a choice. The parents of these children wish they could immunize them. They however may not have the opportunity. Pertussis (whooping cough) causes significant illness in babies every year, not to mention missed days at work for parents. Thanks to the Haemophilus influenza vaccine, (Hib vaccine) the rate of meningitis from this once deadly bacteria has drastically reduced and here in the US only two out of 100,000 children contract this disease.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for meningococcal meningitis. About 600 to 1000 people in the US contract meningococcal meningitis every year, 10 to 15 % of people die and of those who survive, roughly 1 in 5 are left with significant disability. Amy Purdy the dancer with prosthetic legs on dancing with the stars, is a meningococcal meningitis survivor. She and her mom Sheri and Pfizer have started an initiative, “Take Action Against Meningitis.” To educate parents about protecting their teens and young adults from this deadly disease. Vaccines do save lives.
Yes, vaccines are still very important and necessary in the 21st century. We’ve been given the responsibility as parents to make the right decisions to protect our children, ourselves and the community as a whole. Let’s take this responsibility seriously and immunize our children, because it’s the right thing to do.
Vaccines are very important, and they save lives.
Research more here:
wikipedia.org/wiki/congenital rubella syndrome
wikipedia.org/wiki/ haemophilus meningitis
www.pfizer.com/meningococcal meningitis survivor