Vaccination is ranked as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the last century and is the number 1 contribution to decreased global morbidity and mortality, according to Yvonne A. Maldonado, M.D., Stanford University Medical School, Palo Alto, California.
“Pediatric vaccinations have had the most profound impact of any intervention on increasing global child survival, accounting for 3 million pediatric lives saved annually,” she said.
However, even in the 21st century vaccine preventable infectious diseases remain important causes of illness and death in many parts of the world.
Globally, she continued, tetanus, measles, and pertussis (whooping cough) are the main vaccine preventable causes of death in children, while septicemia and influenza-related pneumonia are among the top 10 causes of death in adults and children worldwide, including the U.S. Formerly called “blood poisoning,” septicemia is caused by microorganisms and their toxins circulating in the blood.
In adults, she said, vaccine preventable diseases result in $10 billion in health care costs, and more than 30,000 preventable diseases annually, but vaccination rates among adults remain poor and recommended vaccine schedules for U.S. adults are markedly underutilized.
Vaccination had its beginning in the last part of the 18th century, reported The Book of Health. Edward Jenner (1749-1823), an English surgeon, accidentally learned from a milkmaid that if you contracted cowpox you were immune to smallpox.
In 1796, Jenner inoculated a young boy with the cowpox virus and attempted to make him sick by injecting him with the smallpox virus but the child remained healthy. Medical journals refused to publish his study and he was often ridiculed. During the Middle Ages smallpox killed 25 to 30% of the European population in a single epidemic.
There were skeptics about vaccinations from the beginning, as some people said that they caused you to grow the horns and tails of a cow.
For religious and personal reasons, some parents still refuse to have their children vaccinated. Most states permit exemptions on religious grounds.
Vaccines are made from the same germs that cause the disease, explained Medicine Net. For example, the measles vaccine is made from the measles virus. These germs are killed or weakened so that they cannot develop into the full-blown disease.
Upon vaccination, your immune system develops proteins called antibodies, which destroy the vaccine germ, just as they do a disease germ. The antibodies remain in your bloodstream, thus providing lifetime immunity. If you are exposed to that virus again the disease is usually relatively minor.
A cottage industry of naysayers around the world insists that autism is caused by vaccinations, but there is no scientific evidence.
First described by Leo Kanner, M.D., autism is one of the 5 types of Autism Spectrum Disorders, according to the Autism Science Foundation, New York. The others are: 1) Pervasive Development Delay, 2) Asperger syndrome, 3) Rett syndrome, and 4) Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
Autism is a childhood mental disorder, which usually surfaces when the child is about 3 years of age. It is 4 times more likely to affect boys, in which they have difficulty communicating and interacting with other people. Scientists are still trying to find the cause of the disease. One theory is malnutrition, in which the child’s brain was not getting sufficient nutrients.
Epidemiologic studies continue to provide evidence that there is no connection between Thimerosal exposure and autism, according to Anne M. Hurley, Pharm.D., et al., at the University of Tennessee at Memphis. Thimerosal is a preservative used in some influenza vaccines.
“Children should receive recommended inoculations to prevent serious infections—such as influenza—which outweighs the risks of adverse consequences from vaccines, including the Thimerosal-containing vaccines,” she said.
“In our study of managed-care organization members, prenatal and early-life exposure to ethylmercury from Thimerosal-containing vaccines and immunoglobulin preparations was not related to the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” added Cristofer S. Price, Sc.M., ABT Associates, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 2009, 3 Special Masters at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Washington, D.C., reviewed test cases drawn from over 5,000 similar claims from families as to whether or not vaccinations cause autism and other complaints. The families had to demonstrate through medical and scientific evidence that their child had been harmed, reported Ross D. Silverman, J.D., M.P.H., in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The panel felt that the families had filed their complaints in good faith. But one expert, Special Master George Hastings, J.D., said that it was his belief that, “one family had been misled by physicians who are guilty of gross medical misjudgment.”
Silverman added that when more parents opt out of vaccinating their children, this trend increases the likelihood of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, and creates potential geographic “hot spots” where high concentrations of exempted children may compromise community-wide protection.
While statistics prove that vaccination is invaluable and continues to save lives, there are still people who doubt its success and even deem it dangerous—including the individuals who link thimerosal-containing vaccines to autism, despite scientific evidence that rejects this relationship. Those who do not believe that vaccines are necessary could be threatening their lives and the lives around them. Please feel free to share your opinions and comments below!