BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

The Relevance of Vaccination to Public Health



The recent anti vaccination campaigns, conspiracy theories and possible links to conditions like autism have caused us to rethink the use of mass vaccination. The questions on everyone minds are: should we continue mass vaccination? Is vaccination a safe public health measure? These questions, in recent times, have become socio political, medical, religious and even ethical. The socio political basis of the argument is due to the fact that some political groups like the liberalists are against forced vaccination due to liberality. Also, there are some conspiracy theories about their use in regional subjugation through the spread of infectious agents. The medical argument of course comes from the potential adverse effects and concerns over potentially harmful agents like thimerosal (a mercury containing compound)that have been phased out in many countries including Canada.

The concerns about the public health safety of vaccination exist because of the potential harm that vaccines can cause. Let us briefly discuss vaccines to understand why this potential harm exists. Vaccination is the administration of vaccines (which contain a microorganisms in a weakened or killed state, or proteins or toxins from the organism) in order to stimulate the immune system to defend against an infectious agent. Generally, the closer the organism or virus resembles the original organism, the more the immune response that would be generated but the more likely it would reverse to the original organism, that is, the more the potency the less safe it is. This risk of reversion is why vaccines are contraindicated in high risk groups such as:

  • Children
  • Elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • Immune-compromised individuals e.g. AIDS patients
  • Individuals under immunosuppressive therapy

Despite these risks, vaccination is recommended for some group of people because they are more likely to be exposed to an infectious agent. These groups include:

  • Health workers and Vetenarians
  • Travellers moving to areas of high endemicity
  • Explorers and researchers moving to wild regions
  • Children going to public schools

Amidst the debate, the answer to the question “should we continue mass vaccination?” remains a RESOUNDING YES! Why? Let us look at these facts

  • Immunization currently prevents 2-3 million deaths every year
  • Over 1.5 million children die annually from diseases that can be prevented by vaccination
  • Since 2000, 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated and the number of polio cases has fallen by more than 99%, dropping to just 22 cases in 2017
  • Measles vaccinations averted an estimated 21.1 million deaths between 2000 and 2017

And regarding vaccine safety? Vaccination is safe. Even with the ethical argument about one person in a million being at risk of serious adverse reaction or toxicity, this is not surprising as no procedure is 100% safe. Consider this…

  • The risk for colonoscopy complications, a routine screening procedure is about 0.35%
  • In Canada, the risk of severe pregnancy complications is about 1.5% and 1.6%(700 to 900 deaths) each year in the US
  • For venepuncture, serious complications are seen in 3.4% of these procedures

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