Infectious diseases have ravaged the world since recorded history. In the year 400 B.C. Hippocrates described mumps diphtheria, epidemic jaundice, and other conditions (6), indicating that disease was a recognized problem dating back thousands of years. Infectious diseases are bodily disorders caused by microorganisms, such as: bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. All kinds of organisms are present on the human body, ranging from beneficial to harmful.
Under specific conditions, these organisms are given the ability to become diseases. Some examples of these microorganisms are pneumonia, tuberculosis, diphtheria, influenza and human immunodeficiency virus infection. Three categories are used to describe the intensity of an infectious disease: outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic. An outbreak is when multiple cases of a disease occur in an unexpected, but isolated, area. An epidemic is declared when there is a significant rise in the occurrence of a disease in a given region, while a pandemic occurs when an epidemic spreads worldwide and infects a large part of the human population.
Even in modern times, outbreaks of disease threaten our civilization. Malaria is still rampant in tropical climates, causing thousands of deaths annually. This disease still lacks a safe and reliable vaccine, however physical measures have been installed for protection. The outbreak of H1N1 in 2009 was unexpected and became the most recent pandemic. Now, H1N1 is covered by the seasonal flu vaccine. Due to a decline in vaccinations, the MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) trio of diseases has had stronger outbreaks with more severe cases.
As history shows, vaccinations are undeniably good for the masses.
They control outbreaks and prevent death from controllable, infectious diseases. However, vaccinations and their implementation are controversial. There is a high cost of implementation of vaccines, especially since the government intervenes to try and make them affordable. There is also a strong belief that vaccines might have a detrimental effect on an individual's health, due to adverse reactions. Also, in some religions, vaccines are highly opposed. The delivery system of vaccines greatly affects the safe administration of the vaccine, through its manufacture and storage. Another controversial theory is that vaccines interfere with the natural order of things, causing viruses to evolve faster into more severe strains that vaccines with eventually be unable to prevent.
A large portion of the costs of vaccines comes from the initial development. The government's intervention, specifically within the school systems, has also greatly affected the rates of elimination of common infectious diseases in the United States, diseases like: diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, and meningitis. With the requirement that students are immunized before attending school, a larger percentage of students are continuing to be up to date on their immunization records. The impact of vaccines on the individual is immense.
There are many factors that contribute to successful vaccinations; therefore, there are many steps that could lead to an unsuccessful vaccination. The timing of the administration of the vaccine is important, is it more beneficial to inoculate early, or to inoculate a more mature immune system? There's also controversy concerning the idea that giving too many vaccines at once hinders a person's immune system, while others say that giving them all at once gives the body more time to recover from all of them. The government has now required certain vaccinations be given to children before starting school, but is this violating a person's right to education and privacy? Do the benefits of children being vaccinated and preventing minor outbreaks at school outweigh the costs of losing rights?
The delivery system of vaccines can impact the effectiveness and safety of vaccinations. The storage of vaccines, including location, temperature, and security, must be properly managed to ensure that the vaccine is able to prevent disease. Expiration dates cannot be exceeded for the same reason. Vaccines include preservatives that prolong shelf life. In the past, the common preservative was mercury or a related substance. Because mercury is believed to have adverse effects, it has been removed, but it is important that the preservatives are properly maintained to avoid causing problems for patients. Providers must handle the vaccines correctly to ensure that patients do not become ill because of improper sanitation.
Training is essential to making sure that mistakes are prevented. Proper training will ensure that the provider recognizes patient conditions, like existing illnesses or known allergies, which could result in adverse reactions.
One of the concerns that many parents have is that children are being inoculated against many diseases at such a young age. Parents fear that this aggressive timeline is too much for a young child's immune system to handle. Still others avoid vaccines because they believe that they will actually become sick with the disease they are being vaccinated against.
This has been proven not to be true, but the concern continues.
There are people who think that vaccinations should be stopped because they interfere with the natural order of life. Some proponents of that view believe that the deaths caused by the diseases are nature's way of controlling the population or eliminating the weak members of society. Others fear that the diseases being controlled will mutate into diseases that are more deadly and/or unmanageable. Some religions believe that vaccinations conflict with God's will, so they object to government requirements that children in school be vaccinated for certain diseases.
It is interesting to note that there has been a rise in recent years regarding parents against vaccinations. It could almost be thought that history is somehow repeating itself; as there is increased security and safety, those who wish to be contrary rises.
Even though there are many who have serious concerns about vaccinations, the vaccination programs in the United States and Europe have been so successful that they have inspired the 20th-century concept of disease eradication'.
This concept proposes that selected diseases could be eradicated from all human populations through global cooperation. The best example that supports this concept is that, in 1977, after a decade-long campaign involving 33 nations, smallpox was eradicated worldwide. Some parents also wonder, if the worst diseases have been eradicated, then why must their children receive vaccinations against them? Some are unable to see that diseases are still living organisms, which change and alter themselves over time. If there are many children that do not receive the smallpox vaccine, then that group is more susceptible to any disease that is derived of smallpox. Diseases are looking for ways to live too, which is why it is so shortsighted to believe that any kind of eradication would be a long-term solution.
Vaccinations are controversial, but they have been proven to save lives. Although individuals may have concerns about the safety, effectiveness, and/or appropriateness of vaccines and government vaccination programs, they continue to be developed and distributed worldwide. It would be highly beneficial, however, to begin providing parents with a more detailed explanation of what vaccines are, and what they do to protect children. Most distrust arises out of the fear of the unknown, so a very detailed immunization curriculum would likely aid in maintaining the percentage of youth and children being vaccinated.