This week (April 24th – 30th, 2017) is World Immunization Week, also tagged as the 7th annual Africa Vaccination Week (#AVW17 on social media) and YOU should be aware about why immunizations are so important.
Fact #1: Immunizations are one of the most cost-effective and successful public health campaigns ever!
Many of us do not know a world where Polio or Smallpox routinely causes morbidity or mortality – this is because Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 and Polio has been on the verge of eradication. To understand how effective successful immunization campaigns are, ponder these facts: polio cases have decreased by more than 99% since 1988 (125 countries at that time were ravaged by the endemic, but after massive immunization campaigns, only a few areas of Nigeria, Afgahnistan and Pakistan still have cases of the virus today). If you live in these regions, your child should get the BCG vaccine at birth because it protects them against polio. The smallpox vaccine is no longer recommended because the disease has been eradicated! Imagine a world where we eradicate measles, chicken pox, hepatitis B, etc….its possible with vaccines and will be more beneficial than trying to treat the diseases after they have been contracted.
Fact #2: Vaccines REALLY DO WORK!
I think we already made this point clear….but in case you still have doubts…we’ll express the point again in a pictorial form.
Vaccines work. Plain and Simple. Here are a few examples – the number of measles deaths globally has reduced by 79% since 2000 due to widespread vaccination efforts. This is a huge feat, but perhaps even more impressive is that smallpox used to cause 2 million deaths annually but now causes ZERO. All because it was eradicated by vaccines.
Additional public health efforts such as good sanitation and hygiene, as well as access to clean water provides some protection against infectious diseases, but these measures do NOT replace the need for immunizations. If we do not maintain high rates of immunization against common diseases, everyone will be more susceptible to getting infected with these agents. So in essence…vaccines really DO work, but the success of a vaccination campaign depends on the immunization of everyone susceptible to the infectious disease.
Fact #3: Vaccines are SAFE! And NO, they do not cause Autism.
Licensed vaccines go through multiple phases of rigorous testing before they are approved for use. Furthermore, vaccines are regularly reassessed once they are on the market, and information regarding any reactions or adverse events are reported to and investigated by scientists. There are known potential side effects from getting vaccinated, but these are usually mild temporary reactions such as a low grade fever or a sore arm. What is NOT safe is the exposure to infectious diseases that we know could have been easily prevented by getting vaccinated.
Furthermore, it has been repeatedly proven that there is no known relationship between autism and vaccines. Instead, the 1998 paper that raised much of the concern about a link was found to be flawed and fraudulent as one of the study’s authors was receiving compensation from lawyers working to sue vaccine companies. That author was later banned from practicing medicine in the UK and the paper has since been retracted for its inaccuracies. Read more on the history of vaccines here.
Fact #4: Administering multiple vaccines at the same time does not overwhelm a child’s immune system.
There is no known negative effect on a child’s immune system from getting more than one vaccine at a time, or getting a combination vaccine. Children’s immune systems are much more resilient than we think! On a daily basis they are exposed to multiple foreign substances that trigger small immune responses (think of babies eating food off the floor or the recurrent exposure to coughs and colds that toddler’s get from school. These immune responses are often much less than the response triggered by a vaccine, so fear not; your child will thank you later for minimizing their number of traumatizing clinic visits.
Still have questions? See your primary care doctor today! They can answer specific questions and review you and your family’s vaccine records. In the meantime, engage a friend in the discussion this week about the importance of immunizations. Let us know if you discover anything interesting or if additional questions come up!
Keeping you healthy,
Dr. Sade Adeyi, MD MPH
Instagram, Twitter: @yourprimarydoc