Saturday, December 5

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vaccines

In the span of a few months, we have witnessed the coronavirus pandemic change the landscape of the whole world. Difficult questions about global health and the disparities it poses have come to the forefront. It has become clearer than ever that investing in health means investing in our economy. One of the ways of safeguarding our health has been with the use of vaccines. They have helped in reducing many infectious diseases like smallpox, influenza, polio, etc. Let us look at the effectiveness as well as the problems attached to the use of vaccines.

WHAT ARE VACCINES?

Vaccines are a biological material or preparation that induces a specific immune response in humans or animals to an infectious disease. Vaccines work because the body’s immune system knows how to protect itself from disease-carrying micro-organisms or microbes that it has previously encountered. The process of administrating a vaccine is known as vaccination. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), currently, vaccines protect us from 25 debilitating or life-threatening diseases. These include measles, polio, influenza, tetanus and typhoid. So, it can be said that vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent diseases. However, over 20 million children across nations still do receive vaccines on time leading to poor health, disabilities or even death.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vaccines

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF VACCINATIONS?

There are at least seven types of vaccinations. These include attenuated, inactive, subunit, toxoid, conjugate, recombinant vector, and DNA vaccines.

Attenuated or live vaccines contain a version of live microorganisms that has been weakened in a laboratory so it cannot cause a disease. Attenuation is the weakening of the organism. Examples of viral diseases include measles, mumps, yellow fever and typhoid. Inactive vaccines kill the disease-carrying microbes with heat, radiation or chemicals. These are more stable and safe than attenuated vaccines. For instance, polio, influenza, and hepatitis A vaccines are inactive vaccines. Subunit vaccines discard the entire disease-carrying microbe and only use the antigen part of it. These antigens induce an immune response in the body by producing antibodies. Vaccine for the hepatitis B virus is an example of a subunit vaccine that consists of only the protein of the virus.

Toxoid vaccines are inactivated toxic compounds that cause the illness instead of the disease-carrying microorganism. So, your immune system learns how to fight off the natural toxin. Diphtheria and tetanus are examples of toxoid vaccines. Conjugate vaccines combine a strong antigen to a weak one as a carrier. This helps your immune system have a stronger response to the weaker antigen. Recombinant vaccines use attenuated viruses or bacteria to introduce microbial vaccines to cells of the body. The vaccine to combat Ebola is an example of a recombinant vaccine. DNA vaccines dispense the whole disease-carrying organism and use the organism’s genes to directly produce an antibody. DNA vaccines are not in use yet.

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ADVANTAGES OF VACCINES

Life-Saving

One of the major advantages of vaccines is that it saves lives. Immunization which is the process where a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease through vaccines prevents deaths in all age groups every year. It is both cost-effective and very successful in preventing diseases. According to WHO, around ten million deaths were prevented due to vaccinations. Additionally, every year immunization prevents at least two to three million deaths per year. Hence, millions of lives are being saved from infectious diseases like measles, polio, diphtheria, pneumonia, etc.

Builds Immunity

Vaccines help train our immune system to resist a disease to increase one’s immunity to it. Earlier, one had to become immune with the help of naturally acquired immunity. In other words, you had to suffer the symptoms of the disease, and risk complications. This is not only risky but also potentially deadly. Vaccines protect us by preventing the disease from occurring in the first place. Therefore, vaccinations vastly help in acquiring artificial immunity.

Herd Immunity

Vaccinations are not just a personal choice for one’s benefit. It also protects the entire community. Herd immunity (community immunity) means that when a critical percentage of people are vaccinated against a disease, it is less likely that the whole community gets it.  A person who is vaccinated helps people with low immunity and the weaker sections of the community from getting the disease. Young children, new-born babies, elderly, pregnant women and people suffering from chronic illness are some of the sections of the community that directly benefit from vaccinated people.

Alternatively, if enough percentage of people in a community do not get vaccinated, then diseases can reappear. For example, in 1989, low measles vaccination in the United States resulted in over 55,000 cases and 136 measles-related deaths. Hence, vaccines are key to the public health goal of preventing diseases.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vaccines

Thoroughly Researched and Studied

Vaccinations are thoroughly researched and studied. This is another beneficial aspect of vaccines. Vaccination is safe because they go through various rounds of study, examination, and research. Only once this rigorous process is done is it open to the public for use. The research and the evidence shows us that vaccinations are safe for use.

DISADVANTAGES OF VACCINES

Adverse Effects

Though vaccination is generally safe, it does not come without risks. There can be adverse effects to vaccinations. Even with adequate design, research, manufacture and delivery, there can be side effects. These side effects may include joint pains, fever, memory loss, fatigue, seizures or even hearing and vision loss. For instance, rotavirus vaccine is used for protection against rotavirus that causes severe diarrhea in young children. This vaccine is moderately associated with intussusception which is a medical condition that results in small bowel obstruction. The risk of these adverse effects increases with factors like a weak immune system, having a personal history with vaccine allergies or if you were sick while getting the said vaccine. Hence, vaccinations can be more detrimental to the weaker sections of the community.

Allergies

There is a possibility that people can develop allergies because of vaccines. These vaccines contain several different components and these components can affect a person differently. Though life-threatening allergies are very rare, just like any other medicine, they can cause allergies. These allergies could include weakness, dizziness, or some breathing problems.

Not Always Effective

Vaccinations are not always effective. Sometimes there can be failures due to the host’s immunity system, lack of response, or how the vaccine was administered. So there is a possibility that one can get the disease and become sick even if they are vaccinated.  Various factors can make a vaccine ineffective. Age, ethnicity, genetics, vaccination schedules, the infectious disease itself are some of the factors that could work against the vaccination making it ineffective.

Mandatory Vaccination

Many believe that mandatory vaccination infringes upon their right to exercise their own decisions. The government should not be interfering in personal medical choices. And that parents or guardians should be able to make medical decisions for their children.

Though one must remember that the consequences of one’s actions can have a larger impact. Parents choose not to vaccinate their children to avoid risks but it could just be the riskier option. Above all, the risk of natural infection far outweighs the problems linked with vaccinations.

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Pros and Cons

PROS

CONS

Life-Saving

Adverse Effects

Builds Immunity

Allergies

Herd Immunity

Not Always Effective

Thoroughly Researched

Mandatory Vaccination