Vaccination is a form of artificially acquired active immunity, meaning it is acquired through medical intervention and is a response produced by the immune system. Vaccines are “a preparation containing antigenic material used to protect people against serious and potentially deadly diseases” (Class Notes, 2019); unlike most other forms of treatment which are used to cure or treat diseases, vaccinations are used to prevent them (‘What are vaccines?’, 2019). There are many cultural, social, religious, ethical, legal, political, and economic factors that impact the effectiveness of vaccines and therefore the health of any given community.
In criterion 8 of the biology course, we have discussed the effects of pathogens on humans and the multiple prevention and treatment methods used. Vaccination is currently the most accurate prevention method and therefore it is important to understand the factors which either increase or decrease the number of vaccines produced and distributed (Class Notes, 2019).
The effectiveness of vaccines, in particular, community immunity or herd immunity is a large issue involving cultural, religious, and social factors. Herd immunity is the theory that not everyone in a community must be vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease. Instead, of a majority of the community is vaccinated and is therefore immune, the few people susceptible to the pathogen are less likely to become infected as the pathogen is less likely to find a susceptible person, and therefore that particular pathogen will die out in that community (“Vaccine”, 2019); this is mentioned in criterion 8 of our biology course. Some certain cultures do not allow for their members to be vaccinated due to ethical problems associated with the use of living organisms in the creation of vaccines, this includes using human tissue cells. Many cultures and religions believe that people should not receive certain chemicals, blood, or tissues from other animals and instead should only be healed by natural means, this is due to the belief that the body is ‘sacred’(‘Cultural Perspectives on Vaccination, History of Vaccines’, 2019). For instance, the Catholic Church recognizes the importance of vaccines and their contributions to community health, however, they insist when possible members should seek alternatives to vaccines that are made using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses (‘Cultural Perspectives on Vaccination, History of Vaccines’, 2019).
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Religious and political objections to vaccines also exist, for instance, Muslim fundamentalists have created suspicions surrounding the polio vaccine in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. These suspicions have gone so far as resulting in kidnappings, specifically after the local Taliban in Southern Afghanistan called the polio vaccination an “American ploy” to “sterilize Muslim populations and an attempt to avert Allah’s will” (‘Cultural Perspectives on Vaccination, History of Vaccines’, 2019). This creates a decline in the number of people receiving the vaccine and therefore herd immunity is no longer effective in this community (“Vaccine”, 2019). Many countries are beginning to make vaccinations mandatory to therefore increase the level of herd immunity and protect children and those who cannot receive the vaccines due to medical reasons. In countries such as Italy and France, infants are required by law to receive a certain number of vaccines (Warren, 2019). However, in countries such as Australia, vaccinations are not mandatory as major exemptions apply, this limits the safety of the public in terms of the spread of diseases (Anderson, 2018).
Before being administered to the public, vaccines must go through numerous years of research which includes clinical trials, however, before this stage of the development is reached, the vaccines must reach certain safety standards (‘Ethical Issues and Vaccines, History of Vaccines’, 2018). When testing the effectiveness of a vaccine a clinical trial is used, this clinical trial should include a control group that does not receive the test vaccine. However, this is cause for ethical concern, as it requires doctors and or scientists do not to provide participants with something that could potentially prevent disease. Testing the vaccine on vulnerable populations, such as children and people in third world countries can also be cause for ethical concern (‘Ethical Issues and Vaccines, History of Vaccines’, 2018). When testing vaccines a list of ethical concerns is required, this includes providing necessary treatment if a disease is detected, ensuring the trial and vaccine can be supervised by an ethical review panel, and ensuring that participants understand consent prior to partaking in the trial (‘Ethical Issues and Vaccines, History of Vaccines’, 2018).
With an increasing number of newly discovered diseases, there’s a need to create more vaccines to protect the public, these vaccines cost between $521 million and $5 billion to make, depending on the manufacturer and vaccine, according to The Washington Post (Martinez, 2018). It is an extremely time-consuming process to create a vaccine, and becomes increasingly more expensive the longer it takes to produce a successful immunization 15 years is considered to be the average amount of time used to create a successful new vaccine (Martinez, 2018). With an extreme amount of funding required to produce a successful vaccine, it is difficult for developing countries to protect their populations without the assistance of a wealthier country such as America, Australia, or England (Martinez, 2018). “Health is a key factor for the promotion of economic growth” (Najera, 2019) meaning wealthier countries can make a profit when distributing a successful vaccine. If the use of vaccines continues to grow, less of the population will suffer due to disease and therefore more individuals will be present in the workforce (Najera, 2019).
Vaccinations are a major breakthrough in medical history, they allow for entire communities to be protected from disease. Many countries are slowly progressing to make vaccinations mandatory so that those who are unable to receive them can be protected due to herd immunity (Anderson, 2018). There are a few ethical concerns involved in the creation of vaccines, including the use of animal chemicals, blood and tissues, and human tissue and using clinical trials. Despite needing extreme funding to produce them successfully, a profit can be made from the distribution of vaccines (Najera, 2019). Therefore the production of vaccines is evidently beneficial to the survival of humans and the evolution of medicine and science.