Since the beginning of life, there has been a fight against disease, but humans have only recently been able to understand and gain a slight upper hand through vaccinations. Vaccinations are a relatively new, but simple solution to an age-old problem. A vaccination is “a substance administered through inoculation, ingestion, or nasal inhalation to stimulate a person’s immune system to fight infection” (Eckenrode 1109-1184). They make it easy to both cheaply and effectively fight everything from the mild flu to something as dangerous as smallpox. Vaccinations should be necessary because they not only keep the person who was vaccinated safe, but the public as well. Nowadays people take the availability of vaccines for granted. When people choose not to get vaccinated they not only put themselves in danger, but others as well. This is a global problem and with false facts about vaccinations swirling in the media, more are choosing to not be vaccinated. People underestimate the danger of diseases that we are now able to prevent through vaccines.
A vaccine, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms that is administered to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease” (“Vaccine”). A vaccine is made up of antigens that then allow the immune system to recognize and combat more serious diseases (“Vaccines and Immunizations”). The truth of the matter is billions of billions of dollars have been put into the development of vaccines, not only making effective vaccines, but also making safe vaccines. The FDA which is the U.S. Food and Drug administration, as well as the CDC which is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regulate vaccines very heavily to ensure the safety of the people (Vaccines and immunizations). Some of the regulations include them getting a “rigorous review of laboratory and clinical data to ensure the safety, efficiency, purity and potency of these products” (Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research). These regulations are put in place to ensure the safety of vaccines, which disproves the theory that vaccines are unsafe. This is important to note because many people use this as an excuse to not get vaccinated.
The history of vaccinations goes back hundreds of years. According to The Vaccination Debate w ritten by Jill Sherman, the first vaccination created was for smallpox in 1796. It was created by Edwar Jenner after he realized that milkmaids who had been infected with cowpox would later become immune to smallpox. This led him to create a vaccine that led to the eradication of smallpox disease (National Research Council). Although vaccines were created in the late sixteenth century, they did not become very prominent until the mid-nineteenth century in the United States (Sherman 26-29). During this time “… vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough and tetanus had all been created and [were] part of a child’s standard medical treatment” (Sherman 26-29). Vaccines have been around for a long time and have been used to treat various illnesses. Currently, there are 20 different vaccines on the market used to combat infectious diseases, 7 of which are commonly recommended for children to receive (National Research Council).
Over the past few years, vaccines have gotten a bad name from people claiming certain side effects and these have gotten excessive news coverage. In the end, it is only harming humans as well as undoing years and years of hard work in vaccine research.Vaccines can have side effects just like any medication, such as soreness and even very mild effects. According to the CDC the vaccine is supposed to be increasing immunity against diseases (“Vaccines and immunization”). Severe, long-lasting side effects from vaccines are very uncommon. In short, vaccines are a tool for humanity to further themselves, they allow for society to push forward with less risk from a lot of horrible diseases. They allow children to grow up safer, and unhindered by diseases that would have crippled them only 10s of years before (“Vaccines and immunization”). However, across the country, the idea of whether vaccinations are worth the false advertised risk, has become a huge controversy. People fear things they do not understand, and many people fear vaccines because they are not properly educated on them. This and false information spread by unreliable sources through the news and media inflate the dangers of vaccines.
With a lot of controversy surrounding vaccines it is important to know why getting vaccinated is so important. One of the main reasons is that vaccines are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to protect people from various illnesses. According to the American Medical Writers Association Journal, vaccinations are “…[in]disputably one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease, each year preventing 2-3 million deaths globally” (Ratzan, et al.110+). Millions of lives are saved each year around the world by people getting vaccinations. They are also the cheapest way to prevent various illnesses. They are the simplest way to prevent diseases because a vaccination is usually a simple shot a few times in a person’s childhood. They are also the cheapest because the majority of health care programs cover vaccination costs because vaccines are deemed as necessary.
Vaccinations are also important because they are able to prevent so many deaths. Vaccines have proven to save lives and The New York Times recently came out with an article that found “Globally, the measles vaccine is estimated to have saved 21 million lives between 2000-2017 according to data cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States” (Eddy). Donald C. Arthur, who is a surgeon, backs this by saying, “The invention of vaccin[nes] was a turning point in the war between microbes and humans. Although improved sanitation and antibiotics may have been saved more lives, vaccines represent the most-effective life-saving device in history” (Arthur 122+). With the help of vaccines illnesses can easily prevent millions of deaths if administered.
Vaccinations have also caused some illnesses to be eradicated. In 1980, The World Health Organization stated that the small-pox virus had completely disappeared because people had been vaccinated (Tomboloni et al.). Because of the creation of the vaccine in 1796 now the smallpox virus is practically nonexistent (Sherman 26-29). Many diseases like measles can be completely prevented through vaccinations. It has been proven that if vaccinations are used correctly, diseases can become forgotten and completely disappear. With the help of vaccinations in the past, most people in the United States have not had to deal with dangerous diseases that used to be very common. However, there is a lot of fear that these viruses will come back because many people who choose to not vaccinate their kids do not realize how dangerous these diseases are. In The Vaccination Debate written by Jill Sherman, a medical professional named David Keller, the former chief of the Infectious Disease and Epidemiology Program with the New Mexico Department of Health shares his experience with deadly diseases;
I have seen, for example, children with brain injury resulting from not being able to breathe during spells of whooping cough (pertussis). I have seen children and adults unable to walk or even speak their names because of severe brain damage resulting from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis… I have seen scores of African children and adults crawling on their knees hobbling with the help of a stick after having polio as youngsters. Finally, I have heard my grandmothers grief after losing her four-year-old daughter to diphtheria. . . . These are heart-rending scenarios, now preventable. (Sherman pg 64-65)
Diseases across the world affect many people, but examples like this show how important it is for people to be vaccinated and to not take the availability of vaccines that the United States has for granted.
Vaccines are not only important to help keep the person who gets vaccinated healthy, but also to keep the general public health. David Keller also stated that there is difficulty in deciding whether to vaccinate children, but that “these diseases cause far more harm to people than vaccines do. When people go unvaccinated, the disease is allowed to spread more easily, and with often-tragic results” ( Sherman 65). It is also believed that when vaccinations are not given to children they are not the only ones in danger of getting a disease, but they are in fact putting others at risk as well. As the Institute of Medicine says, “Immunization is widely regarded as one of the most effective and beneficial tools for protecting the public’s health” (qtd. in Sherman 12-13). It is shown that receiving vaccines can not just protect one person from illness, but others around them as well.
After looking at why vaccinations are so important, it is hard to understand why people choose to not be vaccinated. Though there are many reasons why some are against vaccinations, one of the main ones is religion. There are many religions that prevent people from getting vaccinations. The Vaccination Debate states that:
Some people refuse to receive vaccinations because of their religious beliefs. For example, religions such as Islam have restrictions against certain vaccines because they are derived from animals. The vaccines would violate the dietary restrictions of these religions. In many states, parents can receive permission to waive shots based on their personal beliefs. Which is called opting out (Sherman 8).
Religious beliefs about dietary restrictions and beliefs against what vaccines are made of can have a huge impact on whether people are vaccinated or not, and with parents having the choice to refuse vaccinations more children across the country are not being vaccinated. Although some religions prevent vaccinations, many laws have been changed about which vaccinations can be waived because of religion. According to The New York Times, during a current measles outbreak, states such as California, Maine, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arizona have signed a bill that does not allow “exemptions on religious grounds” (Mckinley). Other states like New York have also signed this bill in hopes that the measles outbreak would stop (Mckinley). The measles outbreak needs to be taken seriously because of how dangerous these diseases are and that is why there are so many bills being passed to try to get more people vaccinated.
Mandating vaccinations is not only becoming common in the United States, but in other countries as well. According to the New York Times magazine Germany has mandated a law that states if parents do not vaccinate their kids they will “face fines of several thousand euros” (Eddy).
This law also states that it “will require all children seeking to attend preschool to prove that they have been immunized or risk losing their placement” (Eddy). These recent laws have been made due to massive outbreaks of diseases. In Germany alone, there have been 501 cases of measles that have been recorded in 2019. Some of these cases are in developed countries where the virus had been eliminated. There have been flare-ups in developing countries because there are is a growing number of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their kids. This shows that vaccinations are not only an issue in the United States, but a global issue.
There are many different opinions about vaccinations and whether they are worth what some believe as a risk. There are many people who are fed false information about the side effects of vaccinations which leads them to believe that they are bad and should not be trusted. This, however, is not the case when you look at the facts. Vaccinations are the easiest and cheapest way to prevent death and the spread of dangerous diseases. Because vaccines are so important to public health people choosing not to get vaccinated has become a massive problem. One reason so many people are against vaccines is because of their religions. Although this is a valid reason many states such as New York are taking away the right of many people from being able to say no to vaccinations because of their religious beliefs. With outbreaks of diseases that used to be controlled occurring throughout the country, governments have had to start mandating vaccines to try and control these outbreaks.
People not getting vaccinated is not only an issue in the United States, there are laws being passed in other countries because they are trying to prevent dangerous outbreaks from occurring. Medical professional David Keller talks about how important it is that we acknowledge if there are outbreaks of many of these dangerous diseases that have already been eliminated it would not have a good outcome. It is shown that the easiest and cheapest way to solve our problems is vaccinations. Vaccines are proven safe and effective by what they have already accomplished. Nowadays people take the availability of vaccines for granted. When people choose not to get vaccinated they not only put themselves in danger, but others as well. People underestimate the danger of diseases that we are now able to prevent through vaccines.
- Arthur, Donald C. ‘Negative Portrayal of Vaccines by Commercial Websites: Tortious
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- Mckinley, Jesse. “Measles Outbreak: N.Y. Eliminates Religious Exemptions for Vaccinations.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 June 2019, esultPosition=2.
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