Immunization Awareness Month

August is Immunization Awareness Month. I know the vaccine topic is a touchy one that causes people to argue and I don’t want that. I am more than happy to have an open conversation and hear your thoughts and opinions on the matter, but if you are going to be disrespectful to me or any other commenters I will delete your comments. It’s not necessary. You can and should be respectful adults who can disagree without belittling each other.

I know that it’s not quite August yet, but I am having to submit vaccination records for Cash to start school in a few weeks and I know there are a bunch of other parents who have done similar things or are in the process of doing similar things. Here in California, the law is as follows: “Personal belief exemptions will no longer be permitted beginning January 1, 2016. Personal belief exemptions submitted before January 1, 2016, are valid until the child enters kindergarten (including transitional kindergarten) or 7th grade. Valid medical exemptions from a licensed physician are not affected and will continue to be accepted.” (Contra Costa Health Services) If you are from another state I would like to hear what your state requires and does not require.

Anyway, I wrote a research paper on whether or not vaccinating children should be required by law. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject! Here is my paper:

What exactly are vaccines? What do they do and how do they work? How important are they really? In the Encyclopedia Britannica, the definition of a vaccine is “a suspension of weakened, killed or fragmented microorganisms or toxins or of antibodies or lymphocytes that are administered primarily to prevent disease.” The first vaccine was introduced by a British physician, Edward Jenner, in 1796 to protect people from smallpox. Prior to this, Asian physicians were giving children dried crusts off the sores of people suffering from smallpox. The problem with this method was, some of the children would develop the disease and some would develop immunity. In 1881 Louis Pasteur could immunize sheep against anthrax and four years later he had a vaccine for rabies. Since then there has been a worldwide want and need for vaccines against deadly diseases. However, whether to vaccinate our children has become a hot button issue. There are myths, fears, facts, and statistics surrounding the issue; and all are fueled by social media. Laws requiring immunization create a safer environment for everyone, due to herd immunity, the potential risks of immunizations are minimal, and the economic impact of non-immunization is significant.

In the United States, a lot of diseases were very common up until the middle of last century and killed thousands of people every year. Almost everyone in the U.S. got measles and hundreds died each year, however now “most doctors have never seen a case of measles.” (CDC) Before the diphtheria vaccine was created in 1921, more than 15,000 people died in the U.S. Now that there is a vaccine only one case has been reported to CDC since 2004. (CDC) There many diseases that can be avoided via vaccination now. However, if people do not vaccinate their children or themselves they can start spreading these diseases again to others who are not vaccinated. If one or two people contract a disease and live in a community with low vaccination rates there will be an outbreak. Therefore, we need herd immunity.

Per the CDC website herd immunity or community immunity, is when a large portion of a population is immune to an infection or disease, either through vaccination or prior illness, which makes the spread of the disease highly unlikely. Through herd immunity individuals who are not vaccinated, like newborns or those with chronic illnesses, are given protection “because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.” (CDC) A great example of herd immunity happened in Japan in the 1970’s. There were 393 cases of whooping cough in 1974 with 80% of the country’s children being vaccinated and no related deaths. Then in 1979 the number of children getting vaccinated dropped to 10%, 13,000 cases were reported, and 41 people died. After that year vaccination numbers went up and the disease numbers dropped again. (Britannica Academic) These vaccines not only protect us and our children but they also protect people who may not be able to get vaccinated due to medical reasons or might be susceptible for other reasons. Ask yourself, what would happen if we stopped getting vaccinations? This situation in Japan shows us we could very well find ourselves fighting epidemics that we had previously thought were defeated.

There are plenty of arguments that vaccines are not safe, however, most of these arguments are founded on myths and false statements or ideas. There is a myth that vaccines do not work, but there are so many scientific facts and examples which prove they do work. Not only do they work, they work very well. A prime example of vaccines working is smallpox. Because of the smallpox vaccine, it has been eradicated from the earth. Another myth people hear is that infants are too young to get vaccinated, yet children who get these vaccines are being protected from diseases like pertussis and Hib meningitis. There are roughly 8,000 cases of pertussis every year, resulting in five to ten deaths each year in the United States and if infants stopped getting vaccinated those numbers would skyrocket. (CDC) “Vaccines given in the first two years of life are literally a raindrop in the ocean of what infants’ immune systems successfully encounter in their environment every day.” (Should Vaccines Be Mandatory) Probably the biggest myth that is causing parents to fight vaccinations is the myth that vaccines cause autism. This myth has been projected and exaggerated by the media. There have been two studies that claim the vaccine for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) causes autism. Both of those studies were done by Dr. Wakefield and his coworkers, yet they are very flawed. There have been four different studies, by four different groups of people, debunking this myth. (Vaccines)

Vaccines contain antigens (“a toxin or other foreign substance that induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies” (CDC)) and small amounts of other ingredients. These other ingredients are another reason why parents are not wanting to vaccinate. Yet, CDC states there is such a small amount of these toxins that they are not harmful to adults or children. Vaccines are as safe as they can possibly be, according to CDC. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the vaccines given in the United States by studying the vaccine itself as well as the sites where the vaccines are made. The FDA also monitors the side effects of each vaccine. If they feel there is a common link between a certain vaccine and side effect they weigh the benefits and the risks to decide if there needs to be a change in the vaccine itself, the schedule, or the amount of the vaccine given at a particular time. (CDC)

Vaccines can cause side effects, like anything foreign we put into our bodies, however, they are usually very mild. There may be redness and swelling at the injection site, a slight fever, as well as more serious side effects such as “vomiting, high fever, seizure, brain damage, or death.” (Britannica Academic) However, these occur in less than one in a million people. It is extremely rare for anyone to have severe allergic reactions to vaccines, but doctors are trained to deal with those situations should they occur. Even though you or your child may have one of the mild side effects after getting a vaccination, it is much better than the alternative. If we stop getting vaccinated, diseases we once thought eliminated will spread across our country like wildfire. A prime example of what happens when we don’t vaccinate our children happened in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Immunization rates against measles dropped” (Should Vaccinations be Mandatory) causing 11,000 hospitalizations and more than a hundred deaths. Now that the rates of vaccinated children have increased again and the number of cases has dropped to about a hundred per year with no deaths in the United States. (Should Vaccinations be Mandatory) The risks of not getting vaccinated clearly outweigh the minor risks of getting vaccinated.

Finally, the economic impact of non-immunization deserves considerable consideration when weighing whether to require immunization. Most anyone with health insurance has their children’s vaccinations completely covered, they are considered preventative care and they do not pay anything out of pocket. If you do not have insurance and do have to pay out of pocket the average vaccine costs $29.07 at a private clinic and $8.15 at a public clinic. (CDC) However, if you choose not to vaccinate your children and they get sick, you must pay your co-pay and possibly more doctors bills. On top of doctors’ bills, you may have to take time off work; causing you to lose out on wages for that day(s). CDC did a study on the “direct costs for outbreak control, and outpatient and inpatient visits…. average duration of hospital stay, and hospitalization costs”. They did the study on diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, congenital rubella syndrome, hepatitis B, varicella, pneumococcal diseases, and rotavirus. Looking at just diphtheria there is a 100% chance of hospitalization with an average of 6.1 days spent in the hospital. The average cost per hospital visit is $16,982. On top of that hospital stay there is outpatient visits that cost on average $100 per visit. Looking at pertussis (whooping cough) there is a 0.65-30% chance of hospitalization with 5.5-15 days spent in the hospital. The average hospital stay would cost between $10,765-22,410. Then, of course, you would have your outpatient visits ranging from $100-173 per visit. (CDC) These numbers are not including the time you must take off work, or the medication you might have to buy.

The medical journal Bulletin of the World Health Organization did a study focusing on the cost-effectiveness of vaccinating in five emerging economies. They studied Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS). The countries have a wide range of economic standing, ranging from “lower-middle-income (India), upper-middle-income (Brazil, China, and South Africa), and high-income (Russian Federation).” Their study includes “the two most populous countries in the world – China and India.” All together BRICS have a total population of roughly 239 million children under the age of five. Through their study, they have found that introducing vaccines to the children in these countries has greatly benefited the economies. They proved that it is beneficial to the economy and the communities to vaccinate children overpaying for high medical treatment and having lost wages from taking care of the children when they become ill.

With myths being debunked, the potential cost of not vaccinating added up, the minor risks involved, and the fact that we are protecting those who are unable to get vaccinated, it is a clear choice as to what we should do in our communities. Requiring children get vaccinated has a positive impact on so many different aspects of our lives. With laws requiring vaccination, we are protecting those who can’t get vaccinated due to chronic illness or allergies and newborns. And with laws requiring vaccination, we are saving money. There has been enough research to show vaccines are safe and should be mandatory.

 

Linden, S.V. (2016). Why doctors should convey the medical consensus on vaccine safety. Evid Based Med Evidence Based Medicine, 21(3), 119-119. Doi:10.1136/ebmed-2016-110435

Merino, N. (2010). Should vaccines be mandatory? Detroit: Greenhaven Press.

Merino, N. (2012). Vaccines. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. 

Mirelman, A.J., Ozawa, S., & Grewal, S. (2014). The economic and social benefits of childhood vaccinations in BRICS. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 92(6), 454-456. Doi:10.2471/blt.13.132597

Vaccine. (2016, January 29) Retrieved July 3, 2017, from academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/74606

Vaccines & Immunizations. (2016, October 7). Retrieved July 3, 2017, from http://www.cdc.gov/

Vaccines.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved July 3, 2017, from http://www.vaccines.gov/

 

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