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Understanding the Role of Vaccines in Public Health

August 17, 2023

Most of us probably remember getting vaccinated against numerous infectious diseases that could lead to severe illnesses and, in some cases, death when we were kids.  And as parents, many of us have had our children vaccinated against many of those same infectious diseases.  After all, it is one of the best things we can do to safeguard their health and well-being.  Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic that upended the world and prompted pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines to protect people from the China-born virus revealed that not everyone shares this mindset.

Studies show many people were and are still suspicious of how quickly Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and others created a COVID-19 vaccine and managed to get it through clinical trials and ultimately into pharmacies.  When you couple that with the fears some parents had and still have concerning the perceived relationship between certain childhood vaccines and autism, it makes sense that many would question the role of vaccines in public health.


Studies Prove Immunizations Are Not the Public Health Threats Many Parents Believe Them To Be


When it comes to the importance of vaccinations in public health, there are a couple of things that need to be stressed. Firstly, parents couldn’t be more wrong about the connection between measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations and the increased risk of autism in young children. That’s according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). In the study that comprised 95,000 children, researchers found that only 2,000 were at risk of developing autism. And that was because they had a sibling also diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), not because they received an MMR vaccination.

A separate study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the U.S. has the safest vaccine supply of any other country. It further added that millions of children safely receive vaccines each year, and the vast majority only encounter minor side effects, such as pain or swelling at the injection site. So from a risk-to-benefit standpoint, vaccinations are not public health threats but rather an easy, cost-effective, and relatively painless way to protect our children and communities against numerous infectious diseases.

For those parents concerned about the breakneck speed in which pharmaceutical companies were able to create and receive approval for COVID-19 vaccines, we have breakthroughs in science and medicine to thank for that. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it would take about a decade and billions of dollars to produce a vaccine. According to an article published by the University of Maryland Medical System, researchers and scientists were already studying the structure of viruses and how they cause disease in the body long before COVID-19 was discovered and declared a pandemic.

They used that knowledge and new technology to help them identify the virus’ genetic makeup, which they eventually shared with other research teams. That, in turn, led to the faster-than-usual development and approval of several COVID vaccines aimed at rapid public health immunizations. And they accomplished this without cutting corners or compromising safety or efficacy.


Vaccines and Public Health: A Closer Look at Why Vaccinations Are Necessary


Having debunked common falsehoods and misconceptions concerning public health immunizations, let’s delve deeper into why they are necessary.  Along with putting them at an increased risk of falling seriously ill or even dying from preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough, the following are consequences of not getting your child vaccinated:


  • Family members and friends are more likely to become seriously ill from unimmunized children.
  • Unimmunized children have the potential to contribute to a disease outbreak.
  • Families can find themselves stuck with high medical bills related to the treatment of disease and any associated complications.
  • Unimmunized children are at a heightened risk of suffering life-long disabilities, such as paralysis and blindness.
  • Children not vaccinated against preventable diseases have a lower life expectancy than children who are vaccinated.
  • Parents of unvaccinated children often encounter travel restrictions and school enrollment issues.


How Vaccines Work To Protect the Body Against Infectious Diseases


One of the best ways to increase public acceptance of vaccines is to create awareness. When people are knowledgeable about vaccines, they tend to be more accepting of them. To that point, let’s now discuss how vaccines work to protect the body against infectious diseases.  Long story short, vaccines are dead cells or weakened versions of agents that cause disease, and they train the immune system to recognize new instances of those cells or agents as threats.  And this makes it easier for it to spot and destroy them before they give way to infectious diseases.

In summary, the importance of vaccinations in public health, and even from an individual standpoint, can’t be stressed enough. They protect individuals and the communities they call home safe from infectious diseases, and we should all work together to spread the word about how safe and effective they are for children and adults alike.