Essay on Vaccination

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Vaccinations: do they really have health benefits?

Mandatory childhood vaccinations have been one of the controversial issues in the United States of America and worldwide. The dramatic controversy was even staged by the republicans during the 2016 presidential campaigns, with the republicans questioning the efficacy of mandatory childhood vaccinations. The campaign against vaccinations is not only an issue of concern for politicians but also other anti-vaccinationists (also known as anti-vaxxers), who include parents, clergymen, and others alike. Some of the arguments brought forward by anti-vaxers are with regard to the link between vaccinations and diseases such as autism. However, not everyone is against vaccinations. Pro-vaccinations (also known as pro-vaxxers) share a different option. The limelight argument of pro-vaxxers has been shared with evidence of eradication of diseases such as polio in the United States of America and smallpox worldwide, among other diseases. This article seeks to understand the history of vaccinations, how vaccinations work, and the link between vaccinations and some of the major diseases that have ravaged mankind.

History of vaccinations

The story of vaccinations begins with Edward Jenner, who in 1796 performed the world’s first vaccination (Markel et al., 2005). This was the time period when smallpox was a devastating epidemic. In his quest to find a cure for smallpox, Jenner made an observation that milkmaids, who had been exposed to cowpox, did not become ill from the smallpox outbreaks. Owing to this observation, it is articulated that Jenner inoculated an eight-year-old boy with pus from a cowpox lesion. After two weeks of inoculation, the eight-year-old boy was exposed to polio by variolating two sites on his arm. The boy was unaffected by smallpox during the time he was exposed to polio and in subsequent times. Subsequent experiments proved effective in addressing the polio epidemic. Jenner’s pioneering thoughts paved the way for the world of vaccinations and helped serve millions of lives. Today, vaccinations are commonly used in medical annals. There is a flu vaccine, allergy vaccinations, vaccinations against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), as well as Hepatitis A and B vaccines, just to mention a few.

How vaccinations work

When a harmful substance (also known as a pathogen) such as a bacteria or virus, is introduced into the body for the first time, the body’s immune system recognized the foreign substance on the basis of specific features the pathogen possesses (known as antigens). The body then mounts an immune response to attack the pathogen in order to protect the body. The chemicals produced by the body that attack the pathogens are known as antibodies. When this is the first time a pathogen is introduced to the body, it may take days for the antibodies to be mobilized to attack the pathogen. However, once the immune system encounters the same substance subsequent times, it is able to quickly recognize the pathogen based on the memory from the previous encounter. The immune response this time around is quicker than the first time the pathogen was introduced into the body.

Vaccinations take advantage of the body’s ability to recognize the pathogen previously introduced in the body to help protect the body against pathogens. The vaccines contain the same antigens as the pathogens but in weakened or dead form. Ideally, the vaccine is not expected to be of any harm to the host to which it is introduced despite it containing the same antigens as the deadly pathogen. The basis is to train the immune system so that when a deadly pathogen is encountered, the immune response is already mounted and ready to attack the pathogen.

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Anti-vaxxers on vaccinations

a. Vaccinations cause autism

One of the critical arguments against vaccinations is that it is directly linked to autism. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that is characterized by three core deficits: impaired communication, impaired reciprocal social interaction, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviors or interests. ( Faras et al., 2010)2. The severity of the disorder differs from one individual to another. The fight against vaccinations, particularly the MMR, was popularized by a British surgeon named Andrew Wakefield in 1998. Wakefield published an article that linked the MMR vaccine to autism in the article which he published in the Lancet. Despite the small sample size (n=12), the uncontrolled design, and the speculative nature of the conclusions, the paper received wide publicity, and MMR vaccination rates began to drop because parents were concerned about the risk of autism after vaccination. (Rao et al., 2011)4. The obvious result of parents not vaccinating their children was exposed to such diseases and the complications thereof. After over 10 years of the publication of the article against the MMR vaccine, the Lancet retracted it on February 2, 2010.

b. Documented side effects of vaccinations

Vaccinations, like any form of medication, have their pitfalls. The concern about the negative effects of vaccination has caused for increased concern, especially for parents. Parents have questioned the need to have their children vaccinated based on what they may have heard about vaccinations from their relatives or friends. Some of these concerns are reasonable, as there are some vaccinations that are not recommended in persons who are suffering from ailments such as cancer or the HIV virus due to a weakened immune system. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention has clearly published that some individuals should not receive certain vaccines based on allergic responses they may have, pregnant women and those whose who are nursing, just o mention a few. The list has stipulations on who should not get vaccines against cholera, the DTaP vaccine, and hepatitis A vaccines, among others. This makes the growing concerns of some anti-vaxxers, especially parents, to be well understood.


The debate against vaccinations is an ongoing one. The alarm which resulted from people staging a protest against the MMR vaccine did not have any valid evidence and was later retracted. However, the effect of the publication of the anti-MMR vaccine goes beyond the 12 years it lasted in the Lancet. people when everyone was being made to believe that vaccinations have no added benefit. History has also attested to the effectiveness of vaccines. Immediately following the licensing of the measles vaccine in 1962, the number of measles cases in the US dropped dramatically

Personal Opinion:

Everything in the medical annals has its own downfall. What is more important is analyzing the cost versus risk when staging a fight against things like vaccines. There are no vaccines which 100% effective. However, there are many that have proven to be over 90% effective in helping combat diseases. As articulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two doses of the varicella vaccine (chicken pox) are effective at preventing 98 % of any form of Chickenpox. The chickenpox vaccine is not the only one which has proven to be effective. Many other vaccinations are at or over a 95 % efficacy mark against diseases. These vaccinations include smallpox, yellow fever, and measles vaccinations. However, even though I do strongly believe that vaccinations should continue to be administered as they have added benefits, I do feel that further research needs to be done to help address some instances in which some adverse effects may have occurred as a result of vaccinations.

It is the duty of healthcare providers to sensitize the communities to the health benefits of vaccinations. I do feel campaigns for vaccinations are only done when one visits the hospital. However, such campaigns need to be ongoing. Media outlets, such as radio and television stations, social media, and new papers can do need to be utilized as an avenue spread the word for the benefit of the community. There is also a need to cub publications that are presented to the communities about the negative effects of vaccination if such vaccinations do not have evidence beyond any reasonable double. This will prevent the unnecessary alarming of people in communities about the supposedly negative effects of vaccinations. All-in-all, it is the duty of every citizen to seek correct information and health spread the news on the benefits of vaccinations.


  1. Hadeel Faris, Nahed A., Tidmarsh L., (2010). Autism Spectrum disorders. Ann Saudi Med 2010 Jul-Aug; 30(4): 295 - 300
  2. T.S. Rao., and C. Andrade., (2011). The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2011 Apr-Jun; 53(2): 95–96
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