Vaccination is a constantly debated and somewhat controversial subject. August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and so it seems appropriate to share some facts on immunization and vaccination! First off, what’s the difference between vaccination and immunization? A vaccine is a product given through vaccination—and injection into the body of a very tiny amount of an organism that causes a disease. This vaccine is a weakened or “killed” version of the virus or bacteria. A vaccination causes immunization—immunization happens within the body, by stimulating an immune response and creating immunity to the disease that was vaccinated against. Still with me? I hope so! Note that sometimes, immunization is not started by an injection. For example, some new immunizations can be given in nasal sprays, such as the flu vaccine, but immunization isn’t always medicinal! For those of us older than the chicken pox vaccine, we probably caught chicken pox young and now will never have it again—this is another form of immunization for diseases that can only be caught once, during which time the body will create antibodies against the disease to protect against future infection with the virus! A vaccine has this same effect, but without the getting-sick-the-first-time part.
And yes: many people don’t like needles. But vaccines are safe according to research, and are rigorously tested prior to administration. Even during epidemics, such as the ebola crisis last year, even if a vaccine is developed that can help people, it must undergo testing before it can be administered! The health workers who have received the in-development ebola vaccines, for example, will be part of a clinical trial and be monitored closely for the effects of the vaccine—they are simply working off of the hope that the vaccine does protect them from contracting the ebola virus. (To learn more about the development of this vaccine, visit the World Health Organization). So, if it’s slow going getting a vaccine out for a disease as serious as ebola that can spread rapidly, feel assured that all vaccines go through rigorous testing like this.
Some individuals may have other reasons for avoiding vaccines—the most common and legitimate reason is due to an egg allergy. The creation of many vaccines means that the de-activated forms of the “bugs” must be grown using egg protein, making these vaccines off-limits to those with egg allergies. It is also extremely important to remember that there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders (and if anecdotes are more your style, this article might be of interest).
Whatever your choices are, make sure you are educated about the choices you make regarding vaccine for yourself and/or your children! For more information on making the vaccine process less stressful for children, visit this link from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.