Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Perspectives on Vaccines

Author: Joseph Baker

The practice of vaccinating against diseases is a divisive issue, especially when the conversation turns to childhood vaccines. There are no federal laws mandating vaccination, but all 50 states require vaccinations for children entering the public school system. Though all states offer medical exemptions and most offer religious exemptions, most parents accept the process as a normal part of life without questioning the necessity of vaccinations. However, a growing number of parents are beginning to question the safety and efficacy of these vaccines. Though you'd need a biology degree to understand the full nature of vaccines and their effects on the human body, there are some basic issues that can be addressed without an in-depth background on the workings of the human body and viruses. In the end, there's no completely right or wrong answer to the question of vaccinations. The issue is nebulous at best and it all boils down to a personal choice. Though both sides present their issues as concrete and inflexible, the fact that there are two opposing sides capable of making reasoned, logical arguments disproves the belief that either side's claims are absolute.

Are they safe?
The purpose of being vaccinated is to prevent a disease; if, then, the vaccine results in health conditions that are more dangerous than the disease being vaccinated against, what's the point of the vaccine? There are many pros and cons to vaccinations, including the apparent risk of serious health complications. Vaccines produced before 1999 often contained thimerosal, an additive that has been linked with the development of autism. While most vaccines no longer contain the substance, certain meningococcal, tetanus and flu vaccines still do. Vaccines have been known to cause brain inflammation and trigger auto-immune disorders like arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus, among others. The claims of autism-related vaccinations don't tend to hold up to scientific scrutiny, however, and the chances of severe health problems associated with vaccines are far smaller than the chances of contracting most diseases if a person is not vaccinated. Additionally, the side effects of the vaccination tend to be far less dangerous than those of the disease itself.

Are they effective?
Another of the many factors you must consider when deciding whether to be vaccinated is the effectiveness of the vaccine. The average flu shot prevents influenza in about 59% of healthy adults, with the H1N1 vaccine's effectiveness increasing to 69%. Childhood vaccines, however, are mostly 90-99% effective at preventing childhood diseases. Even in instances where children do contract the diseases against which they have been inoculated, they generally experience milder symptoms than an unvaccinated child. One fact you must contemplate is that vaccinations are not only for the individual, but also for the community as a whole. When most members of a community are vaccinated against a disease, it produces what is known as herd immunity. This is a state in which the spread of the disease is no longer possible within the community, preventing it from becoming an epidemic.

Though there are some health risks associated with vaccinations, the benefits can be greater. Vaccinations are not completely effective at preventing disease, but when enough members of a community receive vaccinations, an outbreak is reduced dramatically. In the end, the decision to receive vaccinations rests on the individual, who must decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

About the author:

Joseph Baker’s business experience in management spans more than 15 years. A leader of development and management teams, he also implemented budget reductions professionally and as an independent contractor. Joseph led strategic planning and systems of implementation for nine organizations, public and private, and worked extensively with small businesses. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

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