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Every individual in the world has come into contact with a vaccine at some point in their life and if not from their personal encounter through someone else’s experience with the vaccine. Though many may not understand the whole chemical composition that incorporate a vaccine, but we have an understanding of the greater purpose it seeks to achieve in matters of health; that is prevention. In simple terms, a vaccine is any biological component that provides an active immunity against one or more diseases (Engdahl).
Vaccines production made its way into human society when man could not be able to withstand the great negative impact that is brought about by diseases (Bergström, Perlmann and Wigzell). Diseases have led to deterioration of health and the loss of human life and thus reduced productivity and loss of man hours respectively. The main purpose of this essay is to explore the pros and cons of vaccines and outlining its significance in the society.
The history of vaccines began in the pre historic times of about 1000 C.E in China who used smallpox inoculations where this practice spread through Europe and the now United States. The use of crude inoculation used by the communities at that time was triggered by the never ending spread of infectious diseases. The first ever used human vaccine was the smallpox vaccine that was created from cowpox matter discovered by the then scientist Edward Jenner which led to the eradication of smallpox. In the 1880s, Louis Pasteur came up with the known Rabies vaccine.
Through the foundation of chemical formulas and compositions that the Jenner and Pasteur used, other scientists were able to use similar concepts to derive vaccines. In the 1930s, vaccines against typhoid, anthrax, plague, tuberculosis, cholera, tuberculosis and tetanus diseases were developed. Increased advancement of technology in the 20th century boosted the production of new vaccines and reinventing the ‘older’ vaccines. Hence childhood vaccines against measles, rubella and mumps were discovered. Over the years, vaccine development and production has plummeted with countries forming research institutions which are solely responsible for vaccine development. This has led to use new techniques such as Recombinant DNA in vaccine production. Today they are about 14 vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization where some target one specific diseases while others target several diseases.
Vaccines have different forms depending on the type of disease or antigen it is being developed against. Therefore every form of vaccine has a different route of administration which is compatible with the body system(s). One of the type of vaccine is the Live attenuated vaccine which involves the use of the whole pathogen which has been reduced its pathogenic levels but maintains its immunogenicity (Bergström, Perlmann and Wigzell). The second type is known as Killed/Inactivated vaccine where the whole pathogen is inactivated/killed to reduce its replication in the body but offer immunity. The Toxoid vaccine which involves chemical inactivation of the toxins in the pathogen hence increasing body reception and improving immunity. Peptide vaccine is a type of vaccine where the peptides in the pathogen are purified by use of Recombinant DNA. Recombinant DNA vector vaccine uses a virus vector which has a recombinant DNA which is injected into the pathogen’s DNA which transcribes and translates within the pathogen to a viral protein. Sub unit vaccine involves purification using natural sources or recombinant DNA technology (Collier).
The global impact that vaccines have attained is significant being able to save more than 2 million lives annually. It has brought a paradigm shift in the medical health care systems where the World Health Organization declares as one of the most effective health interventions which is seconded by the provision of clean and safe water. Interestingly, the world loses 2 million people due to preventable diseases; 50,000 being adults in the United States (Engdahl). Routine immunization against diseases is critical as it ensures that the body has a strong defensive mechanism. Routine vaccination has prevented more than 20 million individuals getting hospitalized, has saved more than 290 billion costs that are involved in direct costs and more than 1 trillion that are involved indirectly such as loss of productivity or due to disability (Merino).
While most countries offer vaccination to individuals as a compulsory activity others countries require individuals to consent before being administered the vaccine. The law that necessitates vaccination helps in attaining herd immunity where the whole community is prevented against infectious diseases hence preventing the spread of infectious diseases thus prevent outbreaks in the society (Stratton, Durch and Lawrence). Vaccination’s effectiveness cannot be attained if a few individuals are the protected from diseases hence the rise of mass vaccinations. Mass vaccinations involves health care workers moving door to door to vaccinate a large percentage of the population within a given time. Mass vaccination campaigns have been used especially in developing countries to increase accessibility to the vaccine and cover a wide populations (Stratton, Durch and Lawrence). The compulsory laws of vaccination has reduced more than 20 million deaths that are caused by childhood diseases in Africa.
So how vaccination does saves lives? One realizes that all infectious diseases are costly to manage in terms of direct and indirect costs that are involved. Moreover, a large percentage of the population especially in developing countries cannot be able to afford such costs. Therefore, the latter result of all this would be loss of lives or an increased use of funds in treatment of such diseases for those who can be able to afford treatments. Vaccinations ensure that these costs are avoided as from the first point they prevent the disease from occurring (Engdahl). Hence the less fortunate in the society do not have to deal with medical costs as through mass vaccination or routine vaccinations in the hospital they are able to direct their funds to other more critical issues such as basic needs. These funds can be used to serve in providing relief provisions to those in need such as food and clothing. Moreover as discussed above even for the population that can afford the medical treatments the prevention of such diseases will ensure they direct their funds into other sectors of developments in the country rather than diseases. Loss of working hours is a negative impact that leads to lots of funds being lost unconsciously hence many countries experiencing slow economic growth.
Another way that vaccinations impacts the society positively is by limiting the spread of diseases. All communicable diseases can only be contained if the cycle of transmission is cut. When a disease is contained to the carrier of the disease then the likelihood of spreading the disease is reduced. In historic times, communities used to use the quarantine method to reduce the spread of diseases. Though effective, quarantine method causes stigma among those infected hence causing depression even after being treated their interactions in the society would be reduced. Vaccinations have become intermediary concept that intercepts the process of transmission of disease from the carrier to the rest of the community. Vaccinations of individuals is critical as it forms the barrier wall hence ensuring that the community as a whole is protected.
Well this positivity is spread throughout the globe as the spread of diseases through trans-boundary movement is reduced. Some diseases such as Ebola which are highly contagious are known to fast and vastly spread especially through movement from one country to another (Merino). The recent case in West-Africa caused a lot of deaths and moreover it led to many countries being restricted from travelling to the regions of West-Africa. Obviously the direct impact was loss or delayed activities or transactions which led to loss of funds. Vaccination of such diseases ensures that such losses are not acquired. The most significant role is that it ensures that the spread of infectious disease(s) is curbed. One realizes that most countries have enacted travelling laws where one has been immunized against specific diseases before travelling to another country and provide the relevant immunization certificate when they arrive at their destination. These set of rules have ensured that immunization becomes compulsory and thus effective (Stratton, Durch and Lawrence).
Immunization in infants and children under five years who are susceptible to infection by diseases (Collier). Children are the sustainability of our future and therefore their protection is critical as they are what keeps the world hoping for a better tomorrow. In recent times, majority of countries have put in place measures where all children under five have to have received a given level of immunization to ensure that as they develop they have a strong defense body mechanism. Therefore in simple terms the vaccination process ensures that the future generations are protected health wise. Most countries in the United States have ensured that all children get vaccinated by enacting laws where a child cannot be allowed to enter school without having received their immunization (Stratton, Durch and Lawrence). Thus by the time a child is six years old they have received more than 29 vaccinations. The mass vaccination program that was undertaken against small pox at the time was to ensure that the current 21st generation being protected from the disease.
The above named benefits that vaccines bring forth have over time of course criticism. Though no activity, idea or concept can escape criticism the role of vaccination in the society cannot be ignored. The formation of organizations both local and international have been used to ensure that all individuals receive equal accessibility to vaccination programs. In fact most countries including the developing countries have ensured that health service provision is free and hence encouraging a health seeking behavior in the community. The organizations such as the World Health Organizations have ensured that vaccine production is up to par as safety is critical to ensure that the vaccine does not do more harm than its intended purpose (Stratton, Durch and Lawrence).
As it is known globally, diseases cannot be eliminated that easily as the resources that are used to ensure there is zero rate infection in the community. Moreover, there is the emergence of new diseases and re-emergence of diseases that are assumed to be eliminated. Hence the need to ensure that diseases are not in control is by being comprehensive in preventive measures that is vaccinate. The concept of vaccination however is complex as first it involves identifying the right vaccine for a particular disease. The identification of this vaccine encompasses understanding the causal link of the disease and its pathological manifestation and path in the body (Collier).
Vaccines have been for decades helped reduce the burden of diseases and that is the best part of vaccines. However, there is a section of people within the society who do not buy this idea. Some quarters hold the belief that vaccines have a deadly impact on its receivers; some citing paralysis and even death. However, it is almost impossible to understand the grounds on which these claims stand. The World Health Organization has for many years dismissed these anti-vaccine claims that have come close to threatening the very existence of vaccination among certain communities stating that most of these are either cult members, religious extremists and mostly these people have no scientific basis to their claims (Dubé, Vivion and MacDonald 99-117).
It is true that vaccines do have their own disadvantages. However, most of these are ild and in some cases the receivers develop swellings, rashes and irritations. According to the CDC and WHO, all these are easily manageable conditions. The most common arguments stand on the fact that the Measles Mumps and Rubella – commonly known as MMR – causes autism. This comes from the belief that MMR vaccines contain mercury (Burgess, Burgess and Leask 3921-3928). This claim was first brought to light by Andrew Wakefield who published a report in The Lancet in 2010. Wakefield was himself a man surrounded by controversies and ethical breaches a couple of times. Wakefield’s co-authors in the UK were proven wrong as a result of manipulating their studies so as to suit their interests (Burgess, Burgess and Leask 3921-3928).
The UK and other concerned parties have in recent years conducted studies to ascertain this claim and in each occasion, the results have often come out negative. It is at this point that it was established Wakefield and his team had manipulated their way into publishing this flawed report. First and foremost, Wakefield had not revealed the financial interests that underlie his interest to publish. He had failed to reveal compensation he even made to a lawyer whom he made represent some families whose children had autism that was claimed to be from the MMR vaccine.
In addition to the hidden financial interests, Wakefield did not act in the best interests of the children he often involved in his studies. He involved certain clinical procedures – colonoscopies and lumbar punctures – to come to his conclusions but he never put them in his report. His co-author Walker Smith had his license revoked after Wakefield’s own had been revoked in 2010 (Burgess, Burgess and Leask 3921-3928). This was after extensive studies were conducted and a string of studies conducted the previous year had indicated that there was no association between autism and MMR vaccination.
Still related to the MMR vaccine is the fact that anti-vaccine groups believe that Measles, Mumps and Rubella are not “serious” diseases that call for vaccination (Dubé, Vivion and MacDonald 99-117). However, a closer look at the impact of the diseases reveals the contrary and the diseases are as deadly as they can get. For instance, there is a positive relationship between Rubella and autism and it is has been medically proven that autism is often developed during pregnancy. Additionally, Rubella results in birth defects. On the other hand, Measles has been shown to cause death as it causes the swelling of the brain and despite the small proportion of the victims – 1 out of every 1,000 - it is necessary to prevent its occurrence as most of these victims end up dying (Burgess, Burgess and Leask 3921-3928). In the same light, Mumps is one of the causes of male sterility and many reproductive complications in women such as miscarriages and swollen ovaries.
Other than the MMR, anti-vaccine movements have also levelled their claims against the vaccination of Hepatitis B. the primary concern they present is that Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease and this cannot justify the vaccination against it. Despite this being true, Hepatitis B can also be transmitted via other routes (Manmohan Singh and Srivasta). In fact, direct contact with body fluids by an infected person is one of the most common ways the disease is transmitted. Infants have to be protected against this disease because they are at the highest risk of contracting the same in hospitals and the healthcare providers are also at risk. Ignoring the Hepatitis B vaccine can have serious repercussions with the disease being life threatening and can also affect vital body organs such as the liver. On the same vaccine still, anti-vaccine campaigns have claimed that the additives in it are harmful (Merino). In particular, they claim the content of aluminum in Hepatitis B can have adverse effects on the receivers.
Majorly, all vaccines that have been listed by the anti-vaccine movements are said to contain harmful compounds that make them unsafe for human consumption. One major component that has been complained about is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has been used in the manufacture of various vaccines. In the finished vaccines that have to be used, there is a proportion of formaldehyde that is still present (Poland and Jacobson 2440-2445). Formaldehyde is one of the most dreaded carcinogenic substances and vital organs are often susceptible to the effects of this substance. Vaccines such as those of Hepatitis B, Diphtheria and IPV have been said to contain significant proportions of formaldehyde and the maximum that a child can ingest from vaccines is 0.31mg of formaldehyde.
Still on formaldehyde, it is not possible to claim that formaldehyde ingested from vaccines is detrimental to health. There are many reasons as to why this kind of formaldehyde is not harmful to health. During manufacturing, the last procedure is the dilution of formaldehyde to levels that cannot harm the receivers. Other than this, the formaldehyde in the vaccines is similar in structure to the formaldehyde that the human body produces. The same formaldehyde is also similar in structure to the one we often ingest from food such as apples and bananas. As a result of this, the body would not treat the formaldehyde in vaccines any different and therefore this means no adverse reactions can be triggered from the vaccines containing certain amounts of formaldehyde.
Other than this similarity, formaldehyde is not necessarily harmful to human health and research suggests that formaldehyde has essential roles to play in our bodies. For instance, formaldehyde is an important component in facilitating metabolism. Formaldehyde is a component in the bodies’ generation of nucleobases and nucleotides. In response to anti-vaccine movements, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency has conducted research to establish the adversities that the human body can bear from consuming formaldehyde (Poland and Jacobson 2440-2445). For instance, USEPA has established that humans can ingest up to 0.2mg of formaldehyde per kilogram on a daily basis without registering any adverse health outcomes (Manmohan Singh and Srivasta). With all the aforementioned reasons, the formaldehyde in vaccines is not harmful and it plays certain roles in the consumers’ health. Other than formaldehyde, vaccines have been said to have other additives such as squalene. This has also been said to be a toxin that cause Gulf War Illness. However, this is not medically proven and squalene is even used in some foods as a moisturizer, additive and a supplement. Anti-vaccine groups have also pointed to the presence of anti-freeze components in vaccines. This seems to be a confusion of ethylene glycol and polyethylene glycol; the former is an anti-freeze while polyethylene glycol is the component of vaccines and it is not an anti-freeze substance (Merino).
In summary, it is worth noting that vaccines are more beneficial than harmful as some opposing groups suggest. It is true that vaccines bear some risk but all these have always been mild. Vaccines have been efficient in saving many lives worldwide and it is not possible to see when the world is ready to miss out on the benefits the anti-vaccine movements have complained majorly on the cases of autism as a result of escalating cases of the disease. However, numerous researches have been conducted in relation to the same and there has not been any positive correlation between the two. In modern healthcare, vaccines have been the second most effective measure of preventive health care, coming second to the use of clean water. This is because of their effectiveness in preventing diseases and even saving lives. As such, it is vital for the public health apparatus be ready to mobilize members of the public and encourage them to be per-takers of vaccination programs. This is because those who avoid vaccination are not only a danger to themselves but to other people in the society. Cut to the bone, vaccination is an important aspect of human life.
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