Immunization programs earned popularity in the 20th century as they contributed to the eradication of various infections in many regions. The spread of infectious diseases is properly controlled as the vast majority of people is vaccinated. Lee Ventola (2016) reports that approximately 80% of the global population is vaccinated. Developing countries have the lowest rates of immunization due to the lack of access to vaccines as well as some cultural peculiarities of the population. Trends in developed countries are also changing as more and more people refuse their children’s vaccination. This brief discussion covers the major aspects of the problem including certain statistical data, benefits, and concerns.
Types of immunity related to vaccination
Immunity is human organisms’ ability to resist or be unsusceptible to diseases caused by microorganisms (Greenwood, 2014). People may have innate or acquired immunity. The former is associated with natural or born resistance (biological, genetic, ethnic peculiarities of people). The latter type is concerned with immunity that emerges during people’s life. It can be acquired as a result of infection. Active immunity is acquired when the host develops antibodies while passive immunity is obtained when antibodies produced in another host provide the immunity. Immunization is a practice of making people resistant to disease by vaccines administration.
Immunization Effects on the Individual Level
Vaccines ensure susceptibility to diseases if administered before exposure. The risk of being infected after immunization can be as low as 0% for many diseases including hepatitis, smallpox, and poliomyelitis that used to cause high mortality in children (Greenwood, 2014). This means that no contacts with infected people or other factors can make a vaccinated person susceptible. The risk of complications is also reduced considerably.
Immunization Effects on the Community Level
As far as the community health is concerned, as a result of vaccination, the morbidity of diseases reduced by 99.9% for measles, by 100% for paralytic poliomyelitis, by 100% for smallpox (Lee Ventola, 2016). Lee Ventola (2016) also notes that the estimated economic impact is $70 billion in savings for each birth cohort. Dubé et al. (2013) claim that the number of immunization-related programs that are funded publicly tripled during the past three decades in the USA. This data suggests that Americans are ready to vaccinate their children if it is affordable. According to Greenwood (2014), however, so-to-speak, new vaccines are not popular and such disorders as rotavirus or PCV3 remain barely addressed especially when it comes to Asia (not covered at all) and Africa (5-21% (depending on the disease) of the population are vaccinated).
Herd immunity can be referred to as a decreased risk of exposure (Lee Ventola, 2016). In simple terms, herd immunity is the situation when the majority of people living in the community are vaccinated, which means that the risk of developing an infectious disease decreases considerably. Hence, the more people are vaccinated the lower chances of becoming infected are. Parents often refer to herd immunity when refusing from their children’s vaccination stating that there is no need in complete immunization. Dubé et al. (2013) note that approximately 10% of American parents are opponents to vaccination. Some children may be excused from vaccination due to medical, legislative, and religious reasons (Lee Ventola, 2016). However, according to Lee Ventola (2016), it has been estimated that even if 2-4% of children are excused from vaccination, the risk of various diseases outbreaks is rather high.
Worldwide effects of immunization
During the first part of the 20th century, various vaccines were developed and proved to be effective in addressing numerous illnesses. By the middle of the 20th century, the incidence of infectious diseases in the developing world was high. For example, approximately 30% of African children did not lived until they were five as a result of infections (Greenwood, 2014). The Expanded Programme on Vaccination launched by the WHO led to the increase in the rate of vaccinated people from 5% to 80% in developing countries. Greenwood (2014) notes that immunization led to the prevention of over 100 million cases of certain infectious diseases since 1924. Nevertheless, immunization is associated with certain gaps as measles caused 157,000 deaths in 2012, which is a substantial burden (Greenwood, 2014). It is noteworthy that people’s resistance to vaccination is one of the factors contributing to such high percentages.
The immunization coverage has always been associated with countries’ GDP as governments have had funds necessary for research and implementation of numerous programs. However, in the 2010s, the situation is rather different, as people in European countries and North America are becoming more resistant to immunization (De Figueiredo et al., 2016). They focus on their legal rights and ethical concerns. At the same time, it can be difficult to estimate vaccination rates in many developing countries due to the lack of reliable data on the matter. Even the rate of vaccinated people in developed countries can be hard to evaluate due to rather a small population in many countries.
Vaccination has been associated with various myths that make parents more resistant to vaccinating their children. One of these myths has been discussed above and is related to the concept of herd immunity. Even a low rate of unvaccinated children can lead to the spread of a serious infectious disease (Dubé et al., 2013). The recent debate on the risks related to vaccination has been facilitated by media. It has been estimated that only 51% of websites contained trustworthy data concerning the relationship between autism and vaccination (Dubé et al., 2013). Immunization is not linked to the development of this mental disorder. Immunization does not overload the child’s immune system and can be carried out if a child has a mild illness. Finally, there is no effective alternative to immunization as no herbs or other treatment types can ensure human body resistance to infections.
This is a recommended vaccination schedule for American children aged between 0 and 18 years old (Lee Ventola, 2016). The administration of several vaccines at a time is a preferred strategy as compared to the administration of one vaccine. If some vaccines were not administered in accordance with this schedule, they could be provided during following visits. It is also necessary to remember that the dosage depends on the brand of the vaccine. The standard recommendations for children of the mentioned age include ten vaccines (hepatitis A and B, RV, tetanus, PCV13, influenza (IIV and LAIV), diphtheria, acellular pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, inactivated poliovirus (IPV), and varicella).
Legal and ethical considerations
One of the major ethical issues associated with vaccination is related to the US Constitution and the basic right to choose what is good for oneself. Parents often refer to this right saying that they are completely responsible for their children’s health, so they have to exercise their basic rights. However, proponents of vaccination emphasize that certain choice leads to outbreaks of serious infectious diseases that can cause significant harm including life-threatening complications to their children (Hendrix, Sturm, Zimet, & Meslin, 2016). Some people claim that parents refusing their children’s vaccination should be liable for possible negative consequences. Apart from these concerns, people often question physicians’ liability. It is believed that doctors are knowledgeable and can or rather must provide the information concerning particular risks.
Cultural and religious peculiarities of different communities have a considerable effect on immunization coverage. Some (for example, Asian people) believe that the human body is sacred and people cannot intervene. Some religious groups see any disease as a type of punishment, so no treatment including immunization is allowed. Some religious groups (including Catholics) believe that human tissue cannot be used for vaccine production, which reduces the number of accepted vaccinations. Many people living in developing countries are specifically mistrustful to vaccines as they believe that immunization is a type of birth control.
The positive effects of vaccination can hardly be overestimated as people managed to reduce the number of children dying from infectious diseases considerably. Such infections as smallpox can be prevented with the help of vaccines. However, people are still distrustful of this kind of public health option. It is argued that vaccines cause even more severe disorders or complications as compared to the target infections. Some ethical and religious concerns also result in the low rate of vaccination in certain communities. In order to address the lack of trust in vaccines, it is important to share information openly. Parents should be more active and receptive as they may cause an outbreak of a dangerous disease. It is essential to remember that the effectiveness of vaccination has been properly documented while people’s fears are grounded in myths and rumors.
De Figueiredo, A., Johnston, I. G., Smith, D. M. D., Agarwal, S., Larson, H. J., & Jones, N. S. (2016). Forecasted trends in vaccination coverage and correlations with socioeconomic factors: A global time-series analysis over 30 years. The Lancet Global Health, 4(10), e726-e735.
Dubé, E., Laberge, C., Guay, M., Bramadat, P., Roy, R., & Bettinger, J. A. (2013). Vaccine hesitancy: An overview. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, 9(8), 1763-1773.
Greenwood, B. (2014). The contribution of vaccination to global health: Past, present and future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 369(1645). Web.
Hendrix, K., Sturm, L., Zimet, G., & Meslin, E. (2016). Ethics and Childhood Vaccination Policy in the United States. American Journal Of Public Health, 106(2), 273-278. Web.
Lee Ventola, C. (2016). Immunization in the United States: Recommendations, barriers, and measures to improve compliance: Part 1: Childhood vaccinations. A Peer-Reviewed Journal for Managed Formulary Management, 41(7), 426-436.