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What is Immunization by Lareina Hembrock

By at December 21, 2011 | 5:09 am | Print

Immunization has come such a long way over the years. The development of the vaccine kicked off a new era in health that the world had never seen. Vaccination discovery was a miracle to the world; and it is still practiced today. It is due to immunization that we have been able to eliminate certain vaccine preventable diseases and reduce our risk of health pandemics. Thanks to immunization, diseases like polio have been eliminated from the United States and are in an effort to be eliminated worldwide.

Protecting yourself from annual viruses like seasonal influenza with the yearly vaccination may be assessed by your doctor through finding out if you are eligible or high risk for influenza complications. In recent years, immunization has been suggested to have resulted in increasing reports of Autism. Today, I will inform you of the statistics and studies within all of these topics.
The discovery of immunization was a miraculous coincidence. In 1796 Edward Jenner noticed that the milkmaids that were infected with cowpox were later immune to smallpox (“Historic” 8). He did some experimenting by purposely infecting a healthy boy with cowpox; then after he recovered he exposed him to smallpox but the boy was immune (“Historic” 8). The first vaccine was born. Jenner was operating on the now widely accepted principle that once a person catches a certain disease, he or she is immune to it for the rest of their life. For example, once you’ve had the chickenpox, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever catch it again. About a century later, vaccine study had made even more discovery. In 1877, Louis Pasteur creates the first live attenuated bacterial vaccine for chicken cholera (“Historic” 8). Only 5 years later Pasteur develops the first rabies vaccine (“Historic” 8). Scientists take many approaches when designing potential vaccines. Different variables based on the germ, such as how it infects the cells and how the immune system responds to the germ, determine the vaccine type. (“Understanding” 2). With time and increasing vaccine knowledge, health science has made many great discoveries.

To understand how vaccines work, it is beneficial to first understand how the body fights illness, or the immune response. The immune response is how your body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, and substances that appear foreign and harmful to the body (“Understanding” 2). When a germ, bacterium or virus, enters the body they attack and multiply. The invasion is called and infection; and the infection is what can cause an illness (“Understanding” 1). Our white blood cells are for fighting infection. Our white blood cells consist primarily of B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes, and macrophages (“Understanding” 1). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that the macrophages swallow up and digest these germs and dying cells. When this happens the macrophages leave behind antigens. Our bodies identify these antigens as a threat and acts to remove them. Antibodies, produced by B-lymphocytes, attack these antigens that were left behind. For our cells that have already been infected in the body, T-Lymphocytes attack these cells in our defense (“Understanding” 1). It can take the body many days to prepare for the fight against infection. However, after the infection, the immune system has learned, and is better equipped against that disease. This is because the body keeps a few memory cells in the case the body encounters the same germ again. This is the basis of the immunization concept.

Currently, there are five main types of vaccines that infants and young children commonly receive: Live attenuated vaccines, inactivated vaccines, toxoid vaccines, subunit vaccines, and conjugate vaccines. Live attenuated vaccines contain a weakened version of a living virus and are the closest thing to a natural infection (“Understanding” 1). Inactivated vaccines are made of a dead virus through a process, multiple doses are usually necessary to build up and maintain immunity. Toxoid vaccines, made of weakened toxins, prevent disease caused by bacteria that results in toxins in the body (“Understanding” 2). Subunit vaccines are only made of essential parts of a virus or bacteria instead of the entire thing; Because of the makeup of these vaccines side effects are rare (“Understanding” 2). Conjugate vaccines fight a type of bacteria with an outer coating that make it hard for immature immune systems to respond. All in all, after vaccination it takes about 1-2 weeks for immunity against viruses to be in effect (“Understanding” 1). Vaccines may require more than one dose to develop the best immune response (“Understanding” 2).
According the World Health Organization, in 2002 it is estimated that 1.4 million deaths among children under 5 years were due to diseases that could have been prevented by a routine vaccination (“Immunization surveillance” 1). However, this year in 2011we have near record low levels of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States, but that does not mean these diseases have disappeared for good (“Vaccine-Preventable” 1). We are still vulnerable to these diseases, especially travelers (“Some Common Misconceptions” 5). It is important to keep immunizing so we can one day eliminate vaccine preventable diseases (“Why Immunize” 1).

There have been many health pandemics in our history. With the help of immunization many of these diseases have become rare and eliminated. Polio, a disease caused by a virus, used to be very common in the United States; Polio paralyzed and killed thousands of people a year before we had a vaccine (“Polio” 1). In the United States polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century with an average of over 35,000 cases reported between the 40s and 50s (“Polio Disease” 1). Thankfully, on April 12, 1955 Dr. Jonas Salk pioneered the first licensed polio vaccine (“Historic” 7). With Salk’s poliovirus vaccine the numbers of polio cases rapidly declined to under 2,500 cases in 1957; And by 1965 only 61 cases were reported (“Polio Disease” 1). Today polio has been eliminated from the United States, but the disease is still common is some parts of the world (“Polio Vaccine” 1). If the effort to eliminate the disease from the world is a success, some day we won’t need the polio vaccine (“Polio Vaccine” 1). It is thanks to immunization that polio is not a current threat to the United States.

A vaccine that most have heard of is the seasonal flu vaccine. There are two types of vaccines: live attenuated vaccine (Nasal Spray) and the inactivated vaccine (“Understanding” 1-2). Seasonal flu vaccines protect against the three influenza viruses that research suggests will be most common during the upcoming season (“Key” 1). Adults and children older than 6 months are recommended to get a dose every year (“Understanding” 2). The effectiveness of a flu vaccine to protect an individual depends on the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine (“Key” 3). Some groups should make sure to get vaccinated because they are at high risk of possible serious complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu- related complications, for example: pregnant women, children younger than 5, people 50 years of age and older, people with chronic medical conditions, people who live in nursing homes and other care facilities, and anyone who lives with or cares for those at high risk for complications (“Key” 2). There are also some who should not be vaccinated. People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs or a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination should not be vaccinated (“Key” 2). Also, children younger than 6 months are not approved for flu vaccination (“Key” 2). Anyone with a moderate/severe illness with a fever should wait until they recover before they receive a vaccination (“Key” 2). Also, according to the Key Facts issued from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome should generally not receive vaccine. All in all, flu vaccination can provide a protective benefit if recommended for you.

There are many vaccines that are required through life; as a young child, there are more requirements. In Missouri, the 2011 requirements for school entry include: DTap (Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis), Hib (Haemophilus influenza), Mmr (Measles, Mumps,Rubella), Ipv (Polio), Hepatitis B, Varicella (Chicken Pox). (“2011 Recommended” 1) Regular visits to the doctor will keep the child up-to-date on immunization record. In Missouri, religious and medical exemptions are allowed, however every state has different rules (“2011 Recommended” 2). There are also many vaccines available that are not required for school entry for example; gardasil and meningitis vaccines (“List” 1-2). There are even vaccines being tested for approval for some of the most basic infections- like bladder infections (Hasset 3). Vaccines are constantly being studied and engineered to do more. DNA immunization is a growing topic in the works to help against fighting and preventing cancer (Hassett 2).

Some of the media has really jump-started a revolt against immunization and its suggested correlation with increasing numbers of autism. Little is known about what causes the condition autism; however, many parents blame vaccines, since many claim they first observed their child’s regression after the child received routine vaccinations (Glazer 7). More specifically, the blame is put on thiomersal, a mercury-containing preservative used in vaccines to prevent bacterial and fungal growth in inactivated vaccines (“Thiomersal” 1). According to the World Health Organization after over 10 years of study, there is no evidence to suggest that the amount of thiomersal used poses a health risk (“Thiomersal” 1). This idea had sparked in 1998 when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study in the Lancet suggesting the Mmr vaccine correlating with the increasing reports of autism. However, this study could not be duplicated and the Lancet has retracted this publishing, writing that it became clear that the study was “incorrect” (Glazer 15). Many opinions have been published on this topic, but there is no tested evidence supporting vaccines and autism (Glazer 20). In an effort to reassure the people against immunizations in fear of autism Paul A Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, makes an interesting point when he explains the analogy of chemicals in vaccines and chemicals in daily life.

“You inject the child with this fluid and you don’t quite know what’s in it. It’s very easy to appeal to the notion that that vaccine contains harmful additives or preservatives or manufacturing residuals. But in fact the quantities of all the sort of trace chemicals that can be in vaccines are at such a low amount that they cause no problem and frankly are no different than what one is typically exposed to in the day, assuming that you eat food on this planet and drink its water” (Glazer 21).

In conclusion, immunization has come such a long way over the years. The development of the vaccine kicked off a new era in health that the world had never seen. Vaccination discovery was a miracle to the world; and it is still practiced today. It is due to immunization that we have been able to eliminate certain vaccine preventable diseases and reduce our risk of health pandemics. Thanks to immunization diseases like polio have been eliminated from the United States and are in an effort to be eliminated worldwide. Protecting yourself from annual viruses like seasonal influenza with the yearly vaccination may be assessed by your doctor through finding out if you are eligible or high risk for influenza complications. The controversial topic of vaccines and autism shows no relationship, but presently it is a major study. All in all, until we can eliminate the disease it is important to keep immunizing.
Works Cited
Glazer, Sarah. “Increase in Autism.” CQ Researcher, 13, 545-568. 13 Jun. 2003. Update 22 Jun.
2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.
Hassett, Daniel E. “Immunization” Access Science (1999) McGraw-Hill Companies. Web 16
Nov. 2011
“Historic Dates and Events Related to Vaccines and Immunization” immunize.org. Immunize
Action Coalition. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.
“Immunization Surveillance, Assessment and Monitoring” World Health Organization.
www.who.int. Web 16 Nov. 2011.
“Thiomersal in Vaccines.” World Health Organization, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2011
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United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and
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United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and
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United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and
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United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. “Vaccine-Preventable Childhood Diseases.” Center for Disease Control and
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