’t Stable Essay, Research Paper
I feel that microbes are not out of control. First, they all relate to infectious diseases. Second, they all present growing risks to health to people in the Canada and around the world. And third, they have been on the radar screen for some time but the blips seem to be getting brighter, so they can’t be ignored any longer. It’s time to focus and take action. Bioterrorism, emerging infectious diseases and microbes that are resistant to the best antibiotics and antivirals we can construct are the obvious topics.
Less obvious, but potentially more of a threat to the public at large are the concerns, doubts, and misperceptions that increasing numbers of people seem to be having about childhood immunizations.
Should these concerns, doubts, and misperceptions be left unaddressed, they could translate into a decline in the public’s confidence about vaccines. If, as history has shown, a decline in public confidence leads to a decline in vaccine use, a number of diseases that are now well under control may re-emerge.
Vaccines are the most effective public health tool ever created. Life expectancy at birth has been extended by 30 years since 1900. And it’s estimated that 25 of those 30 years are attributable to public health advances, especially vaccines.
We have achieved historic levels of immunization use in the community and record low rates of vaccine-preventable diseases. As a result of our immunization policies and practices in Canada we almost never see outbreaks of diseases like measles, polio, and diphtheria. Unlike people of just a generation ago, today’s people do not experience the annual summer outbreaks of polio and the self-imposed quarantine that kept children from movie theaters, swimming pools, water fountains, and summer camps. But because people no longer see, and don’t fear that their child is at risk of being infected with these serious contagious diseases, we are risk of becoming a victim of our successful vaccination programs.
The coverage rates tell us that at present most people continue feel that immunizations are the right thing for their child. At the same time, the research that the National Network for Immunization Information (NNii) has conducted over the past year shows that a significant minority of people hold a number of important misperceptions that could ultimately erode their support for immunization.
NNii conducted a series of focus groups all across the country and also conducted a nationally-projectible survey with people. They found that beneath the high immunization rate, there is another story. People have many questions about vaccines and our immunization policies. In addition to being unfamiliar with the diseases that vaccines prevent, they want to know more about the vaccines. Among their many questions: How are they made? What are they made of? Are they as safe as they can be? Why do they contain the components that they do (such as the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal and an immune-stimulating adjuvant that contains aluminum)? How are recommendations made? Who makes the recommendations?
These are all the right questions. The problem is that the system hasn’t quite figured out how to get people the answers they need. People are searching for answers, and many are either not finding the answers, or are getting information that’s incorrect. As a result, many people have significant misunderstanding about vaccines and immunization programs and policies.
+ Nearly 20% of people they surveyed did not know how or even if vaccines are evaluated for safety and efficacy before they are licensed for use. They are unaware of the long road of vaccine development- taking as many as 10-15 years to complete the extensive laboratory work and clinical evaluations necessary to be even considered for licensure.
+ One-fourth of people they surveyed felt that their child’s immune system could be weakened as a result of vaccination and almost as many felt that children were getting more immunizations than are good for them.
Except for those who live in bubbles, we are continually exposed to bacteria, viruses, allergens and foreign proteins as part of daily living. The immune system can handle hundreds of thousands, if not millions of such challenges. For example, depending on the particular virus, we may be exposed to up to 10 foreign proteins during a single episode of an upper respiratory infection. A routine ’strep throat’ will present between 25 and 50 foreign proteins to the immune system. Modern vaccines are made of refined components of the organism, therefore actually present less of a challenge to the immune system than an infection would.