Smallpox, tuberculosis, polio, tetanus, and diphtheria were once life-threatening diseases that claimed the lives of millions of people in the United States and around the world.
For centuries, these diseases indiscriminately targeted and terrorized individuals of all races, socioeconomic status and genders. However, as a result of immunizations, in the United States at least, these diseases have either been completely eradicated or have been kept at bay. Immunizations have proven to control and eliminate many infectious diseases, yet many people remain concerned about them.
Misleading information found on social media about the effects of vaccinations have led to a constant angst among people. This fear has affected whether some parents choose to vaccinate their children or not.
Breanna, the 24-year-old mother of three young sons said she has mixed feelings about immunizations. She had her children immunized because, with the influx of children coming from foreign countries that don’t have immunization requirements, she believes her children are better protected against childhood diseases.
Another mother shared slightly different feelings. While she concurred that some childhood diseases have been eradicated, she said in part, “I believe that children receive some unnecessary immunizations immediately after birth, specifically Hepatitis B. This vaccine is not necessary unless there is a risk of the baby contracting Hepatitis B. I think this is rare. The other vaccines should be spaced out. This will allow for proper assessment of allergic responses to vaccines and decreases the burden on their developing immune system.”
One of the main concerns that people have regarding vaccinations is the fear of autism. Dr. Ashaunta Anderson M.D., a pediatrician, explains that this remains a pressing concern for many parents, even though there have been numerous studies that have refuted this.
Dr Anderson remarked that the period in which a child is given the vaccines is a critical time because children are more vulnerable to infection and their immune systems are still developing, while at the same time they are receiving vaccines that will prevent life-threatening infections.
“It is also the time when they are developing language and social interaction skills. Sometimes children who were going to develop autism anyway start to show some slow-down in those areas, in their language acquisition and social interaction,” says Dr. Anderson. The timing of the two different events, have coincided and allowed people to believe that there is a relationship between vaccinations and autism.
Dr. Anderson said, “It is true that every child may have a risk for autism, but it is not true that vaccines increase that risk.” The probability of a child encountering an infectious disease like whooping cough is more likely and can lead to serious complications. Dr. Anderson would like to encourage parents to aim to protect their children from the things that are likely to occur.
In the United States we are fortunate to have vaccines available to us. In the developing world, access to vaccinations is a challenge due to financial reasons. Not only do vaccinations cost money, but some require storage, such as refrigeration, which is also expensive for these countries to maintain.
Vaccinations have helped Americans prevent illnesses and successfully eliminate diseases such as smallpox. According to Dr. Anderson, it will take a while until other infectious diseases are eradicated, until enough people begin to take the necessary precautions and vaccinate their children.
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“Lilian Ortiz is a former UCR School of Medicine’s Center for Healthy Communities Intern and a Cal State University of San Bernardino alumnus with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Healthcare Management. She intends to pursue graduate studies in the field of Public Health in the following years.”