Vaccines are designed to help protect and prevent serious diseases and help build up our body’s immunity to the various harmful diseases and viruses that are in the world. However, in recent years there has been many controversial discussions surrounding vaccinating. There have been topics of discussion regarding if there is a link between autism and vaccinating and now more than ever, there is a large group of the world’s population who have become advocates for anti-vaccinating. Mainstream media has played a big influence on the rise of anti-vaccinators and all of the benefits and pros of vaccinating seem to have been forgotten. The beginning of the year 2020 started out with a serious virus that originated in China and has spread worldwide to become a pandemic from a strain of Coronavirus. It is a perfect example of why vaccinations are so important. We could also take a look at diseases such as the measles which was almost completely eradicated but came back with a vengeance because there was a large portion of people who were against vaccinating for the disease. Vaccinations are still a very important part of our health and are crucial to the health of our children as they grow up. Throughout this study, we will look at the advancements of vaccinations, the types of vaccines there are and explore more in depth the benefits of vaccinating and their importance in the health care field.
It is well known that vaccinating is the most cost-effective public health intervention. In the USA and Europe (high-income countries, HICs), vaccines have saved millions of lives, as seen with an increase in life expectancy as found in a study by Barocchi and Rappuoli. Vaccinating has the potential to save a life and to help build up a person’s immunity from serious or deadly diseases. Take for instance preventable diseases such as the mumps, influenza, tetanus, measles, pertussis and more. These are all diseases that are still a threat in our world and can be prevented through the use of a single vaccination. These diseases still have a major effect in our world as they continue to contribute to the hospitalizations and deaths that occur every year from children and adults who are not vaccinated. In the same study by Barocchi and Rappuoli, it was concluded that vaccination over a period of 50 years prevented 40 million cases of diphtheria, 35 million cases of measles and a total of 103 million cases of childhood diseases, the final outcome being that over the past century life expectancy in the USA has risen from 43.7 to 78.7 years. Vaccinations have always been a concept that people, parents especially, tend to weigh their options and ask questions and one of the biggest concerns is that there is not a clear understanding of what these vaccinations do within our bodies.
Typically, there are four traditional vaccines that contain either killed microorganisms, live microorganisms, toxoid-based vaccine and subunit vaccines. In any vaccination that a person receives, there is a very low number of antigens which are going to be the contributing factor of the germs that help to build up a person’s immune system. Having this small exposure allows the body to identify the foreign disease and gives it the capability to fight it off. Within these vaccines, we are exposing ourselves and our children to germs that they already come in contact with throughout a normal day; they’re just receiving it in a smaller portion. Vaccines are just as important to adults as they are to children because there is always a potential to gain exposure to the same germs or diseases that children get. There are four major population groups that should get vaccinated including infants, adolescents, adults and the elderly. According to a study by Rappuoli, Pizza and De Gregorio (2014), until 4 or 6 mo. of age, infants are exposed to GBS, influenza, RSV, pertussis, meningococcus, and tetanus, among others. Recently, it has been found that vaccination of pregnant women during the third trimester against tetanus, pertussis, and influenza induces protective immunity in the mother and in the newborn baby through the transplacental transfer of the antibodies. There are still many diseases that can be life-threatening to infants even in well developed countries so the urgency to vaccinate is crucial to ensure the best possible health outcome for any infants. Infants are an important population to keep in mind when considering vaccinating, but another population that needs vaccinations just as much is the elderly. In the same study by Rappuoli, et al. (2014), it was found that aging immune systems expose the elderly to many diseases that occur in the young. In addition, the elderly are often exposed to antibiotic resistant bacteria, especially during hospitalization. Our technological advancements have drastically improved our vaccines, therefore in the elderly populations, having an aging immune system, they often need newer vaccines that are more powerful or have higher doses that will in turn increase the effectiveness in older populations. However, there are studies that demonstrate how populations such as the elderly are often left out of vaccination programs because they are not a target group. One study performed by Gualano, Olivero and Siliquini (2019) found that vaccination programs can concern the population in general (children, adolescents and adults in good health), but they are usually targeted towards specific groups such as pregnant women, travelers and individuals with specific diseases/conditions. The elderly population is missing from most vaccination programs when they are a part of the population that could benefit the most from them.
There many areas of the world that are experiencing an opposition to the use of vaccinations and a large portion of the population who are refusing the recommended treatment to get vaccinated. Opposition to vaccinations has been a highly talked about discussion within the last few years, not just people refraining from vaccinating their newborns and children but opposing vaccinations entirely. There are concerned parents and persons all over the world who fear the use of vaccinations for reasons such as mainstream news and media speculating about links to autism if a child is vaccinated. There are religious aspects that play a part in the opposition as well as sanitary objections too. Our economic state is also a crucial element to consider because there have been challenges that the healthcare field faces in regard to budgeting that also make vaccinating a tough choice for some if they are not able to access or afford the preventative care. No matter what the opposition is though, it is important to consider the long-term effects that vaccinating can provide on not only a personal level but a global scale. Gastanaduy, Banerjee and Durrheim (2018) did a study that showed in late September 2016, the Americas became the first region in the world to have eliminated endemic transmission of measles virus. Measles had been eradicated from the Americas and there were other parts of the world that were also in the process of fully eliminating this life-threatening disease. A few years after the news of the eradication of measles, it seemed to have made a comeback. Parents are afraid to take their children places and parents of newborns warn others of handling their child or showing acts of affection because of fear of diseases. Had the populations complied and continued to vaccinate, the measles virus could’ve stayed dormant for much longer as it was most prevalent in the 1960’s and then between the years of 1997 until 2001, there were record low reports of the measles virus, then came 2016 with the eradication and now a disease that was seemingly gone as made a return. Measles is a very highly contagious disease and in order to protect people from contracting the disease, there needs to be a high percentage of people who are vaccinated against it or else it will spread rapidly. There is a concept called “herd immunity” which means that there needs to be high populations or communities that are vaccinated in order to protect and prevent the spread of the disease. Measles happens to be a life-threatening disease in which you do need that herd immunity but unfortunately, with low numbers of infants, adults and elderly being vaccinated, it became a very prevalent disease again in recent years.
There are many people who worry about the chemicals and antigens in the vaccinations that are given but they undergo quite a broad process to get approval from the FDA. Vaccinations just like any other drug or prescription, undergo extensive trials of research before the vaccine can get licensed and even then, the vaccine is continuously studied before it is used routinely for preventative care. With newer vaccines there are three phases of clinical trials that showcase elements of safety and show their effectiveness. More recently, sophisticated technologies have improved the way we mimic microorganisms and induce protective immunity. Modern vaccines are made of components purified from the pathogen, recombinant antigens produced in yeast, Escherichia coli or baculovirus, as well as antigens modified with structure-based design or synthesized in the laboratory (Rappuoli, et al., 2015). There has not been any evidence of negative long-term effects and like most vaccines and prescriptions that we take, the most noticeable side-effects which vary per individual range from minor effects of soreness, redness, discomfort/pain or a very low-grade fever. As stated in a study by Griesenauer and Kinch (2017), products that predated the FDA or never received formal approval have been removed from the market and are no longer available. Due to changes in the structure of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the approval process for some products has changed over time. The health care field is ever evolving and changing along with our technological advancements, innovations in science and therefore, organizations such as the FDA comply to ensure the safety of the vaccines and the efficacy of their use.
Vaccinations are important no matter the age of a person but there have been substantially low reports of adults receiving vaccinations. Concerns regarding vaccination payments have been reported as major barriers to adult vaccination implementation by healthcare providers, including family physicians, internists and obstetricians and gynecologists (Leidner, Murthy and Bridges, 2019). Costs of vaccinations vary per family and individual, especially depending on if there is health care coverage or not. Payments for adults to receive vaccinations through services such as Medicaid vary by state, however, it is commonly known that for pregnant woman, the cost of vaccinating is significantly lower if covered through Medicaid versus a private insurance company. Services such as Medicare cover the costs of vaccines for the elderly depending on the type of coverage they have such as Medicare Part B and Part D. Efforts to improve healthcare providers and health systems’ awareness of the cost-effectiveness of adult vaccines may prompt more efforts to improve the implementation of vaccination recommendations and reduce missed opportunities for adult vaccinations (Leidner, et al. 2019). This is a very important step to provide the right coverage and to shed light on the benefits and cost-effectiveness of vaccinations to finally reach the adult population to boost the numbers of those who are vaccinating. As adults, we often forget about the usefulness of vaccinating for ourselves and focus on our children or our older family such as parents or grandparents. Even as adults, there is a much lower chance of contracting specific diseases when the choice to vaccinate is being made. The vaccines will essentially work with the person(s) body and its natural defenses to develop an immunity to diseases and viruses. In turn, this immunity will lower the chance of getting disease in the future and possibly suffering from complications as well. For instance, when vaccinating for the Influenza, there is a much lower risk of getting flu, suffering from a flu-related heart attack or complication that may arise from an underlying health condition. As adolescents and even adults, when vaccinating for the human papilloma virus (HPV), there is a lesser risk of contracting cervical cancer. Not to mention, as adults, it is important to vaccinate so you are protecting and preventing those around you from getting a disease and therefore, lessening the possible spread of a disease.
Infants and elderly people have weakened immune systems, so if you don’t want to vaccinate for yourself, it should be a consideration for those who are around you who may be vulnerable to getting a disease or virus. Vaccines allow for humans to have a chance to protect and prevent and create a safer healthy life. It is important that as patients in the health care world, that we continue to ask questions, to become proactive and knowledgeable. Vaccinations should be a high priority especially when there are other services that are offered that take precedence over getting a vaccine. Other preventive services, such as hypertension screening and breast/colorectal cancer screening, appear to have similar cost-effectiveness profiles as adult vaccinations, however these services appear to be given greater priority during clinical practice (Leidner, et al. 2019). If a preventable disease is contracted because a person chose not to get an immunization, there are long-term cost effects that are often overlooked such as the costs of a doctor’s visit, possible hospitalization, treatment and prescription bills and possibly premature death.
In conclusion, it is crucial that there is a global consensus on priority for emerging and neglected vaccine-preventable diseases; and a commitment to providing funds for research, development and delivery of these vaccines worldwide. The scientific community must make health prevention issues an important thematic discussion in the global health political agenda (Barocchi, et al. 2015).
Vaccines have proven to be effective tools for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and ae estimated to avoid between 2 and 3 million deaths each year (Gualano, et al. 2019). Vaccinations have proven to be a successful tool in our health in aspects of prolonging life and preventing deaths. Imagine if there was a larger number of the population that invested the time to research vaccines, ask their primary physician questions and vaccinated, the number of lives saved each year could go up substantially. There are no harmful chemicals or antigens in the vaccines provided and approved by the FDA. All vaccines are safe and offer only a small fraction of a killed virus/bacteria that is created to simply imitate the virus. If ever exposed to the injection received for said vaccination, a person’s immune system is already built up and ready to fight in infection or virus. With the help of vaccinations, common preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, influenza, etc. have all been diminished and there has even been the extinction of various other disease including smallpox and polio. It has always been said that it is more effective and cost-conscious to prevent a disease than to treat it. Getting an immunization will help to lessen the spread of infectious disease and will provide protection. When choosing to get immunized, it is a small step in the right direction on a global and public health scale.