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Vaccination controversy

Vaccination is a process of making an individual immune against an infection following administration of a substance known as a ‘vaccine’ against the disease. It was started towards the end of the 18th century by Edward Jenner who created a vaccine against small pox. Louis Pasteur later invented a vaccine against rabies and anthrax. Vaccination claimed its first amazing success in 1977, when it was able to eradicate small pox. Many other successes were claimed as vaccination has nearly managed to eradicate several infectious diseases especially in developed nations (such as measles, mumps and rubella in the US).

However, people have also been considering that vaccination is not safe and efficient. Research has however, not been able to prove such issues. Vaccination works by stimulating the immune system. Certain substances present in the vaccine known initiate the immune system to produce antibodies (protective proteins) against the disease-causing agents. These antibodies are able to recognize, capture and destroy the infectious agent when they enter the body and hence prevent the disease.

The substances present in the vaccines are in fact altered or incomplete forms of the infectious agent and hence will not cause the actual disease. However, as vaccination is being administered to millions of children worldwide annually, instances of adverse-effects do crop up. These adverse-effects may be due to defective production, faulty administration, allergic reactions, autoimmune problems, etc. Minor adverse-effects such as fever, malaise, pain at the injection site, skin rashes, etc, are common, and usually get better within a day or two, without any treatment.

Major adverse-effects, such as autoimmune disorders and neurological symptoms; Crohn’s disease and autism (with the MMR vaccine); and sudden infant death syndrome, neurological disorders and multiple sclerosis (with the hepatitis B vaccine) may have been reported. However, a number of studies conducted were not able to prove such issues. The vaccine contains very small amounts of a mercury-compound as a preservative. It may not cause any problem considering its minute doses, but recently its quantity has been reduced or eliminated.

Some people consider delaying vaccination, especially the hepatitis B vaccine (since hepatitis B is risk only in adolescents and adulthood). However, studies have shown that ever since the introduction of vaccination against Hepatitis B, the occurrence of the disease has significantly reduced the infection in infants (it was previously as high as 25, 000 infants a year). Only redness and pain at the site of administration have been the commonly reported adverse-effect against the vaccine. Delaying vaccination would only increase the risk of being infected with the disease.

Hence, to obtain complete benefits of vaccination, the process should be initiated as early as possible in infanthood. Rota-shield was a vaccine produced against a vaccine infection and condition elements of a monkey virus and a human virus. The vaccine was associated with bleeding and intussusception of the intestines and hence had to be withdrawn. Following this incident, the authorities began to closely monitor safety issues of all new vaccines in the market. Rumors and false media reports may seemingly create a negative attitude towards vaccination and many people may not participate in such programs citing safety issues.

However, usually such rumors are baseless, false and do not have any research backing to prove them. The press usually tries to publish minor issues, creating a huge effect in the public. The people should use their discretion while analyzing such reports. Such reports are being investigated in any case by the medical faculty. Any vaccine that is launched into the market has been thoroughly tested for its safety in the laboratory both in animals and in humans. Vaccination has been made obligatory in the US and several other nations. Children being admitted to schools have to be vaccinated.

Several US states, allow certain exceptions for vaccination including children affected with certain medical conditions (where vaccination is contra-indicated), children belonging to certain religious groups (who have negative beliefs against vaccination) and philosophical considerations (only a few states) . Parents in general who do not vaccinate their children could be legally punished. In any situation, where there is conflict between an individual’s rights and the public rights, the public rights would benefit, as it would involve a more number of people.

The parent’s would have to carefully consider the benefits and hazards of vaccination. As the hazards are only extremely minute and the benefits are huge, people have to opt for vaccination and have to voluntarily participate it in. In the UK vaccination was made compulsory as early as 1853 (UK Vaccination Act, 1853). In the US after 1905, the state has urged to people to ensure vaccination for general public benefits. The constitution of several nations requires the government to maintain public health, and vaccination has been identified as one of the means of ensuring health of the people.

Higher rates of vaccination have not only resulted in decreased incidences of several diseases, but also complete eradication of a few dangerous diseases such as small pox. We may not be aware of the positive effects of immunization, as it is not apparent to us. Only people having a good idea of medical and disease history may know the true benefits of immunization. Some believe that vaccination rules should be relaxed as the incidences of diseases is significantly decreased. However, there are instances where those not vaccinated have suffered from a disease.

Besides, to maintain public health and herd immunity, vaccination is essential. Epidemics usually tend to affect the people who have not been vaccinated against a disease. A group of people belonging to parish in Indiana (who did not volunteer for vaccination against MMR) being affected with the disease is a good instance of an epidemic affecting the unvaccinated population. Vaccination may not offer 100% protection for a disease. On an average 90% of the population (as per studies conducted in the UK) may develop protective antibodies.

Some people even belief that vaccines are not efficient, as epidemics are still existent. This may be due to the fact that vaccines have not eradicated several diseases, and cases sporadically occurring in nature may be apparent. Vaccination has also caused certain benefits not noticed. There has been a 25 year increase in human life-expectancy following vaccination. This is because diseases that were formerly causing devastation and deaths throughout the world are no more. This fact should be considered before making a decision about vaccination.

Vaccination provides appropriately good level of security against the disease. Adverse effects are extremely rare, and are often being magnified by false or incomplete media reports. Only after thorough investigation by the medical community, should people develop a belief towards the vaccine. It is better that the vaccine be administered at the recommended period to avail complete benefits. In weighting the risks and benefits of vaccination, past issues (such as epidemics and decrease in the life-span) should not be forgotten.

Vaccination also improves the quality of life. Parents that do not want to vaccinate or delay vaccinating their children are putting them at a high danger of developing the disease. They are refusing the child’s birth right, besides having a poor philosophy, illegal actions and are also risking public health (Shelov) .

References:

CDC (2005). Mercury & Thimerosal. Retrieved November 16, 2006, CDC Web site: http://www. cdc. gov/nip/vacsafe/concerns/thimerosal/faqs-mercury. htm CDC (2006). Hepatitis B Vaccine: Fact Sheet. Retrieved November 16, 2006, CDC Web site: http://www.cdc. gov/NCIDOD/diseases/hepatitis/b/factvax. htm CDC (2006). Mercury and Vaccines (Thimerosal). Retrieved November 16, 2006, CDC Web site: http://www. cdc. gov/od/science/iso/concerns/thimerosal. htm CDC (2006). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Vaccination. Retrieved November 16, 2006, CDC Web site: http://www. cdc. gov/od/science/iso/concerns/archive/sids_faq. htm CDC (2006). Vaccines and Chronic Disease. Retrieved November 16, 2006, CDC Web site: http://www. cdc. gov/od/science/iso/concerns/archive/chronic_disease_and_vaccines. htm

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