Vaccination is a simple yet effective way of protecting adults, children and even whole populations against certain illnesses. It helps the body develop immunity to various diseases without actually contracting them. Vaccines contain killed or weakened viruses that are introduced into one's organism in order to produce the needed antibodies to fight an illness without getting ill first. While vaccination has been used successfully for centuries, it has its risks as well, and, lately, it has been subject to more and more controversy, as more and more parents tend to avoid getting their children vaccinated. This research paper aims to take a closer look at the benefits and disadvantages of immunization to determine whether it is a recommended practice or not.
What Are the Benefits of Vaccination?
The most important - and most obvious - advantage of immunization is protecting children and adults against debilitating or even deadly diseases and reducing the proliferation of infectious agents, thus keeping whole communities and even entire populations safe.
Smallpox, one of the most feared diseases in the world, had existed and killed numerous people for over 3,000 years, until it was completely eradicated a few decades ago, thanks to a global vaccination program. The last known case of variola infection occurred in 1977, in Somalia. Likewise, during the 1960s, the effects of rubella were staggering. According to research papers, because of a German measles epidemic, over 20,000 infants born between '64 and '65 suffered from heart disease, mental retardation, blindness, deafness, and other birth defects because their mothers contracted the rubella virus during pregnancy. Nowadays, thanks to the almost worldwide use of effective vaccination against rubella, the virus poses virtually no threat any longer.
Furthermore, another essential advantage of immunization is that, in most cases, getting a vaccine is considerably cheaper than treating the disease it fights against. For instance, taking care of a child who suffers from congenital rubella syndrome entails tremendous financial costs. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, every dollar spent on MMR immunization (against rubella, mumps and measles) saves $13 on medical bills, totaling cost savings of $4 billion every year.
Vaccination is also highly beneficial for safe traveling. When it comes to making journeys overseas or returning home from travels to other countries, immunization plays an essential role in protecting the traveler and the community from diseases that are common in some areas but inexistent or eradicated in others. For example, people traveling from Europe or North America to West Africa must be vaccinated against yellow fever to prevent infection and the spreading of the virus in the home country on their return.
Disadvantages of Vaccination
Many parents have decided to avoid vaccinating their children because of the recent rumors that MMR vaccines cause autism. While thorough studies conducted by the World Health Organization have proven there is no link between MMR and autism, immunization is still not 100% without risks and disadvantages.
First of all, vaccination commonly comes with mild side effects, such as swelling, redness and irritation near the infection site, and infants and young children may develop slight fever or feel unwell for a few days. However, such adverse reactions do not pose any health threats and do not last long.
In extremely rare cases, some vaccines can cause severe side effects, such as anaphylactic reactions, loss of vision, encephalitis, or even death (less than 1 per 1 million people, generally in individuals with weak immune systems). However, it is important to note that vaccination staff is trained to deal with such serious cases and prevent complication or reverse the reactions. Most importantly, the chances of experiencing a severe side effect to vaccination are considerably lower than the risk of getting seriously ill or even dying from the actual disease.
While vaccination does pose some risks, the occurrence of severe adverse reactions is unlikely, and the benefits of the practice are too important not just for individuals, but globally, to ever consider avoiding vaccines. Without immunization, humanity might still be fighting dangerous diseases that are now eradicated - that is, if there were any humans left on Earth to fight.