Vaccinations The benefits outweigh the risk
The world human population is consistently under threat from potentially fatal infections and disease outbreaks that cause death, intense suffering and fear. Since time began, the world has experienced large-scale epidemics, such as the 1918 flu pandemic that caused heavy loss of human lives. Currently, flu pandemics continue recurring in different parts of the world, while HIV/AIDS remains one of the most serious infections with no cure.
Discovery of vaccines has played a critical role in alleviating human suffering and reducing mortality rates associated with various deadly viral pandemics, such as polio, small pox, flu and measles among others. However, skepticism about vaccines’ safety still exists, preventing some people from being vaccinated. Failure to get vaccinated increases the risk of being infected and infecting other people in society. Since the advent of vaccination, especially child immunization programs, several infections have been eradicated in various parts of the world and many lives saved in the process (CDC).
For long periods, childhood infections such as whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, polio, mumps and tetanus caused high infant mortality rates and suffering. However, vaccines have drastically reduced these infections, protecting many children from early deaths and serious medical complications that sometimes result to lengthy hospitalization. In United States alone, measles infections reduced by 99.9% from 20th century to 2006. During the same period, diphtheria and polio infections have been completely eradicated by vaccinating young children (immunizeforgood.com).
The prevalence of tetanus, whooping cough, mumps and rubella in United States also declined by 96.9%, 89.4%, 95.7% and 99.9% respectively during the period (immunizeforgood.com). This clearly demonstrates that vaccines are not only effective in preventing diseases but also in eradicating them as well. Vaccine preventable infections are currently at record lows in many parts of the world. However, incidents of people failing to get vaccinated and being under-immunized are still common, which increases the risks of the disease outbreaks (CDC).
The safety of vaccines is the foremost issue that critics advance in their opposition against the life saving medical intervention. Medically, vaccines are administered to healthy individuals, including infants to boost their immunity against various infections (Roberta 436). For this reason, they undergo more rigorous safety standard tests than most of other medical drugs (Roberta 436). However, in spite of these tests, few side effects are reported rarely because serious medical condition compared to the effects of infection that the individual is being protected from.
For instance, chicken pox vaccine sometimes causes soreness and itchy sensation in children (CDC). However, children who are not vaccinated against the condition develop serious medical complications when they contract the infection (immunizeforgood.com; CDC). Before the invention of chicken pox vaccine 10,600 people were admitted in hospital, where 100 to 150 died annually in the United States alone (immunizeforgood.com). In this case, the side effects of the vaccine are mild compared with the effects of contracting chicken pox.
The side effects of vaccines on health of an individual depend on several factors, but research has not established conclusive findings on some of the risk factors. However, people with weakened immune system have high risk of developing serious health complications especially from live virus vaccines (Roberta 438). Conditions that could weaken immunity include diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, individuals with transplants, and those undergoing medical processes such as chemotherapy (Gayle, et al.2366). In addition, taking immunosuppressive drugs and a history of using steroids weaken immune system (CDC). Advanced age (over 65 years) has been established as a possible risk factor for developing serious medical complications after taking yellow fever vaccine (Alena, et al.3257).
In such situations, medical practitioners advise high-risk individuals against taking such vaccines until their immunity improves. In spite of the aforementioned risk factors, serious side effects emanating from vaccinations are very few. About 30,000 reports on adverse effects of vaccines are received annually in the world, and only 13% of them are serious (VAERS). From 1991 to 2001, 128, 717 reports of vaccine adverse effects were reported in the United States. Out of the total numbers of reported cases, the percentage of deaths ranged from 1.4% to 2.3% (Zhou, et al).
By comparing this number with the millions of lives saved annually by vaccines, it is apparent that benefits outweigh the risks. Studies on effects of several vaccines on pregnant and lactating women have established that immunization confers immunity to both the woman and the child without undermining their health (WHO 286). Constant monitoring and review of vaccines’ safety concerns is done to ensure that the public is confident of embracing and accepting immunization as an important preventive procedure fear of adverse effects on their health.
To ensure vaccines’ safety, world recognized organizations have established reliable mechanisms and programs of monitoring and reporting effects associated with vaccination. Some of the programs include Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network (CDC). The increased surveillance of vaccines has resulted to some vaccines being withdrawn or suspended from use, such as Rotavirus vaccine in1999 due to some undesirable effects (Roberta 437).