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Vaccinations: A Clear Benefit

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Vaccinations: A Clear Benefit

By: Julie Roberts

June 19, 2005

Vaccination: A Clear Benefit

A clear definition of a vaccination is, "the generic term for immunization procedures. Immunization is a procedure whereby living or nonliving materials are introduced into the body...:" (Nosal, 1999) The concept that people who survive an infectious disease do not get the same disease again is the basis for the administering of vaccinations. Vaccines are normally given to healthy individuals for the prevention of diseases. Vaccines work by using a human host to provide a stimulus to the immune system. Immunization is used for viral and bacterial diseases. Rappuolli reports and predicts, "Vaccines will not only be used to prevent infections, but also to cure chronic infectious diseases, tumors, diseases and allergies." (1999) Even though there are risks involved with being vaccinated, there is no doubt that vaccines have been the most effective means of combating deadly infectious diseases throughout the twentieth century.

Vaccinations were developed or discovered in 1796 when Edward Jenner, a doctor in England, noted that the farmers infected with materials from cows did not develop small pox, but instead were immune to the disease. Today, vaccinations are available for a variety of life threatening or life altering diseases such as; smallpox, rabies, salmonella, tuberculosis, diphtheria, yellow fever, tetanus, pertussis, polio, influenza, cholera, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcus, tick-borne encephalitis, pneumococcus, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, varicella, lyme disease, and rotavirus. Vaccines are more commonly given to infants today to immunize early. Already there are more vaccines in development for infectious diseases such as cancer, hepatitis C, papillomavirus, and helicobacter pylori. With these vaccines, tumors will be dramatically decreased. So instead of regarding vaccinations as a painful childhood experience, they should be perceived as tools used in the prevention and cure of diseases.

Therefore, the hazards of vaccinations have to be weighed against the benefits of immunization. Immunization has lowered the reported cases of diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, (DPT), measles, mumps, rubella, (MMR), tuberculosis, and meningitis. A notable decrease in the number of cases of measles, hepatitis B, and polio were noticed after vaccinations started being administered. The hepatitis B vaccine was introduced in 1989. Before the vaccine was available over one hundred thousand cases and almost six thousand deaths had been reported. The measles vaccine became available in 1964. Before that vaccine was administered over four hundred thousand cases were reported and almost four hundred deaths. The polio vaccine was offered in 1954. Before the vaccine was available, over fifty-five thousand cases of the disease had been diagnosed. The following chart shows the significant effects of vaccinations on reported diseases:

After the vaccines started to be administered, a notable decrease was reported in the amount of cases seen. In 1998 there were less than nine thousand reported cases of hepatitis B, less than one hundred reported cases of measles, and just over three hundred cases of measles reported. The number of cases reported of each disease in 1998 are identified as follows (Zimmerman, 2000):

Studies conducted in the United States have found that the diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus (DPT) vaccine is 90% effective in the prevention of the disease. As well, by administering the hepatitis B vaccine, 95% of those vaccinated accumulate protective antibodies against the disease. The varicella vaccine has been proven more than 97% effective in children.

Despite the success of vaccinations in decreasing the existence of diseases, vaccination rates remain less than favorable. Many times vaccinations are missed due to the limited appreciation of the risks of preventable diseases. (Zimmerman, 2000) Many people just do not understand that vaccinations are necessary to prevent diseases when they do not see them on a daily basis. Without having first hand experience with these diseases, they seem like a myth rather than a reality. Many parents, and physicians as well, lack knowledge and experiences with these diseases since they are not exposed to them. In other cases, vaccinations are missed due to concerns about the adverse reactions associated with vaccines. Other factors that may contribute to missed vaccinations may be changing physicians or insurance issues.

On a global level, the influenza vaccination in children is recommended and strongly encouraged. These vaccinations are recommended for children especially if they are to be exposed to a daycare or school environment because of the potential for spreading infection. Unfortunately, the influenza vaccine is not administered as needed because of the lack of education about the effectiveness and complications for physicians and parents. Also, the vaccination is not always readily available. Many clinicians vary on there methods and routines of administering the vaccine, although its proven effectiveness warrants a more uniformed practice of delivery. Based on clinical studies, an increase of this vaccination is recommended to protect against the complications and spread of influenza.

The risks associated with vaccines need to be taken seriously as they can have adverse side effects. According to Nossal, the most controversial vaccine is the DPT shot. Reactions such as fever, irritability, pain, and swelling were common side effects noticed after receiving the vaccine. (1999) Usually, a mild measles rash can occur after receiving the measles vaccine. Serious complications from vaccinations occurred less than one time per one hundred thousand cases showing that serious adverse reactions are rare. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine has relatively mild side effects such as a mild fever and tenderness at the injection site. Nossal concludes that since the side effects of vaccinations are mild, vaccines are generally safe. (1999) Vaccines have been proven safe through studies and trials for common systemic symptoms and local reactions.

In rare instances more serious reactions have been reported. Convulsions occur in one out of every 2000-3000 cases and the possibility of a serious acute neurological illness has been raised to

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