The definition for “vaccine” is so simple it masks the gonzo kerfuffle about vaccinations. Being vaccinated ought to be an indisputable exercise in a nation with a highly educated and regulated medical testing apparatus. It is not.
Vaccines are biological preparations that provide active acquired immunity to particular diseases. Vaccines are made from inactive or dead forms of the microbe, its toxins, or surface proteins resembling the micro-organism causing the disease.
Vaccines are in the news again because of the fearsome spread of Zika by mosquitos and sexual contact. Zika has devastating and costly effects. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services redirected $589 million in funds from Ebola vaccines’ development, cancer, diabetes, and other disease research to Zika vaccines’ development.
Vaccines Are Essential
The medical and public health professions are convinced that vaccinations and new methods of delivering them are the best ways to prevent the spread of—and even eradicate—infectious diseases. A small but vocal chorus differs vociferously; many are willing to break the law, government rules, and regulations by refusing vaccinations for them and their children (“How Hollywood Stars, Trump and Scientologists Inflame the Vaccine Wars: ‘It’s Spurious but Effective’” by Gary Baum, The Hollywood Reporter, September 1, 2016). Positive data on vaccinations are clear about their benefits: (This post does not have space to cover vaccines in veterinary medicine.)
* Cases of measles dropped from three-quarters of a million in 1958 to fewer than 150 per year today
* Smallpox was once a deadly contagious disease that vaccines eliminated worldwide
* Rubella, mumps, polio, chicken pox, and typhoid remain problematic in underdeveloped countries where vaccinations are costly and delivery is physically challenging because of religious beliefs and terrain
* Significant dents have been made in common children’s and senior citizens’ illnesses since the development of vaccines for hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, influenza, meningococcal disease, and pneumonia
Attitudes range from antivaccinations to hesitancy and complacency. Some oppose mandatory vaccinations on religious grounds. Others see the issue as a violation of free choice. The majority of antivaccination martinets argue that vaccines initiate insidious side effects, so taking them is not worth the risk.
The nonvaccinated expose others too young or sick (such as those undergoing radiation treatments) to be vaccinated to disease carriers. The board of a school where a faction of the parent body refused to vaccinate their children voted to suspend these children, demanding full compliance with state laws. The school lost the court case, but its decision to expel any nonvaccinated child with an ill sibling or classmate was upheld.
Advocates are needed for transparency, clarity, and enforcement of rules and regulations guiding institutions and workplaces. Professional community and health-care outsourcing agencies can be valuable in balancing individual rights and hesitancy with the need for public safety. Outsourcers are also able to deliver clear and precise information about the scientific evidence related to vaccines to challenge the hesitant and complacent.