Immunization is regarded as one of the most cost-effective ways of preventing diseases. Unlike other methods, immunization has a broader coverage and can protect larger populations from disease-causing organisms. Most often, vaccination and immunization are used interchangeably.
According to the CDC, immunization is when a person becomes protected from infection or disease through vaccination. The protection offered by vaccination is termed immunity. Also, vaccination is the process of introducing a vaccine or a weakened strain of an organism to produce immunity against a specific disease. Some vaccines available include the Hepatitis B vaccine, malaria vaccine, Tetanus vaccine, and Covid-19 vaccine, which has been developed recently.
According to Unicef, vaccination has been estimated to save about 2 to 3 million lives of children each year from deadly diseases. Vaccines could be used in all age groups. In Ghana, Immunization exercises for children are popularly known as ‘weighing’; this is where mothers are made to send their babies to take shots of vaccine at scheduled intervals. These babies receive, for example, five-in-one vaccines that help protect them from vaccine-prevented diseases like pertussis, tetanus, Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, and Haemophilus influenza. This exercise occurs at health centers mostly, but occasionally, community health nurses are seen moving from one house to the other to vaccinate the children whose parents could not take them to immunization centers.
Immunization has many benefits aside from being one of the most effective tools in disease prevention.
Immunization helps save the lives of people and those around them. When one is vaccinated, one builds immunity. In addition, the body forms a memory of the organisms; this helps the body recognize these infections and fight them when exposed to the same infection in the future. Unfortunately, people easily transmit infectious diseases, sometimes through close contact. Therefore, to protect the vulnerable groups in society, we need to get vaccinated so we don’t infect those around us.
Immunization helps protect the next generation. Some diseases are passed on from mother to child when not treated or prevented. According to WHO, examples of such diseases include Hepatitis B, Rubella, and HIV/AIDS. As part of the routine investigations conducted during Antenatal care in our hospitals, pregnant women are screened for some of these vaccine-prevented diseases, and appropriate measures are taken when necessary. By taking vaccines, we can prevent the spread or transmission of these diseases to future generations.
Immunization helps save money for ourselves and saves the government more money. Vaccination helps prevent some diseases from occurring. However, when one gets sick or becomes disabled due to not vaccinating, it puts a lot of burden on the individual and their family. Sometimes family savings get depleted as there is a need to get caregivers to help out. In addition, there might be frequent visits to the hospitals due to regular exposure to infections in children, especially when they start going to school and also start playing with other kids. The government would have to spend a lot of public revenue acquiring medicines to manage these disease conditions and providing support for these vulnerable groups, which could have been prevented using vaccines.
Immunization helps reduce certain disabilities in children. When the Immunization schedules are met on time, specific disabilities associated with not taking vaccines will be reduced significantly—for example, some conditions like Polio. Blindness, deafness, and other forms of mental disability among children have been reduced during vaccination. According to Unicef, Measles vaccinations have prevented over 23 million deaths between 2000 and 2018.
Some misconceptions associated with immunization
Although there has been a good track record of the use of vaccines in the world, there are still some myths associated with their use. For example, some people believe that vaccines are not safe, and because the covid-19 vaccine came out pretty quickly, some people have doubts about it. Vaccines, just like other medicines, undergo testing and clinical trials to make sure they are safe and effective for use. They are also licensed and approved for use by various regulatory authorities such as the FDA and ethical committees before being used in the human population; this makes them safer to use.
In addition, some wonder why people who have taken the vaccines still get Covid-19 infections. Some vaccines provide lifelong immunity, and with others, the immunity is lost after some years. However, with Covid-19 vaccine, it doesn’t offer 100% immunity. With the immunity built, one may show milder symptoms when infected even after getting vaccinated. Therefore, it is necessary to take all recommended doses of the vaccines to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. In addition, others believe that vaccines have microchips that could be used to track those who have been vaccinated. This is not true because a single vial of vaccine could be used for more than one person, and it difficult to track lots of people. Instead, details taken during vaccinations are used to do follow-ups when there is an allergic reaction associated with vaccines and pharmacovigilance issues, that is, to make the vaccines are still safe even after they have left the manufacturers.
In conclusion, immunization has helped the world eradicate some diseases like smallpox, and some conditions have not been recorded over the years due to vaccination. We should try to vaccinate when vaccines are made available and get our children immunized.