Why we need vaccines

Nick Tewell, Guest Reporter

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What won the Revolutionary War? The discovery of vaccines. If it were not for vaccines, the Revolutionary forces would be crippled by smallpox early in the war. In 1777, George Washington discovered the effectiveness of vaccines while stationed in Valley Forge. Washington then ordered all Revolutionary soldiers to be immediately vaccinated from smallpox if they had not survived the disease earlier in their lives. The practice of vaccination quickly became a standard, and vaccines were dispersed throughout the country (College of Physicians of Philadelphia). Vaccines expose a person to a weakened or dead pathogen that causes disease, usually via injection. The person’s immune system then fights off the pathogen. In doing so, the individual creates antibodies specific to fighting the disease. After creating these antibodies, the individual then has immunological memory. Immunological memory makes it easier for the person to fight off the same or similar diseases if they are once again exposed (CDC). Vaccines are paramount in protecting the safety of both individuals and the general public, and save money, and prevent pandemics; vaccines should be made mandatory as a result.

Vaccines save lives and money. Vaccination has eradicated some of the deadliest diseases in human history, such as Polio, Yellow Fever, Diphtheria. Vaccines not only protect the person receiving the shot but also those around them. Diseases spread after infecting a person. If an individual is able to fight off and kill the disease-causing pathogens, further spread of the disease will be prevented. Some people are unable to receive vaccinations due to medical conditions or severe allergies; their safety relies on the due diligence of others. The CDC estimates that since 1994, more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths were prevented by vaccines. Additionally, vaccines save money. Vaccines are an affordable means to avoid costly doctor’s visits, medicine purchases, and even hospitalizations. The CDC also estimates that vaccines saved the U.S.  $295 billion in medical expenses in the past 24 years. Also, an additional $1.3 trillion was saved in societal expenses. These societal expenses are often correlated with economic activity, as people who are ill are less likely to stimulate or positively contribute to the economy (Szabo). The money saved allows for increased investment in other areas, such as cancer research or improving sanitation. Unfortunately, nearly 30% of American children are missing at least one of the seven vaccines recommended by the government (CDC). By requiring all suitable individuals to receive these vaccines, even more lives and money will be saved.  

Additionally, vaccines have and will continue to prevent pandemics. Seemingly a concept of the past, diseases such as influenza used to terrorize entire continents. Fortunately, because of vaccines, this is no longer the case. Today’s society is especially susceptible to pandemics. Pandemics can spread rapidly through modes of transportation such as airplanes and trains. Pandemics can spread rapidly through people because of constant close encounters, whether it is in public transportation or in an elevator. Pandemics can spread rapidly through cities because of their high population densities, the highest the world has ever seen, serving as a powder keg. Hence, all it takes is a highly contagious viral infection to decimate society. What would happen if such a virus existed? They do. However, they are kept in check because of vaccines. The number of people infected by viral infections (of the viruses that have an available vaccine) are at an all-time low, despite the world population being its highest ever. Vaccines turned these potential pandemics into rare occurrences (“Why Do We Need”). Additionally, the main course of action for the WHO, the world leader in epidemiology, in the event of a future pandemic is to develop a vaccine. Vaccines are the most effective method in not only preventing but also addressing a pandemic (Nordqvist). Vaccines have and will continue to protect society from pandemics.

Many people oppose vaccines. These individuals are often hesitant to put a foreign substance into either their own or their children’s bodies. Others claim that vaccinations are unsafe, citing stories where a vaccine caused a child to develop autism (CDC). However, these individuals are misinformed. Vaccines are a marvel of science, created by some of the best and brightest minds. The best epidemiologists in the world work together to create vaccinations. In order for a vaccination to be released to the public, rigorous testing and trials must be completed. First, the vaccine is tested in a lab setting. Then, the vaccine is used in a clinical trial, administered to a small, volunteer population. During these trials, any adverse side effects or issues are identified. If the vaccine passes all of these rigorous tests, then it is released to the public. Even after being released, the vaccine is constantly monitored. Any vaccination that draws concern will be immediately recalled. The only scientifically-proven side effects of vaccines are minor inflammation and extremely rare allergic reactions. In order to prevent these potential reactions, the ingredients of every vaccine are listed and reviewed prior to the procedure. Also, the doctors administering the vaccine are trained to treat these allergic reactions (National Vaccine Program Office). Therefore, vaccines are safe procedures.

Everyone is living here on earth. It is each individual’s duty to be a responsible citizen. In order to do so, one must not only protect themselves from illness but also prevent the spread of diseases to others. There is no better way to thwart the spread of disease than to become vaccinated. Vaccines will continue to save lives. Vaccines will save money. Vaccines will prevent pandemics. Vaccines will continue to be safe procedures. By vaccinating yourself and encouraging others to follow suit, you are making the world a safer and healthier place.

 

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Why we need vaccines