Vaccines vital to public healthFlu season is upon us, and everyone who can should roll up a sleeve for the unpleasant prick of the needle, or prepare the nose for the uncomfortable puff of spray.
Flu season is upon us, and everyone who can should roll up a sleeve for the unpleasant prick of the needle, or prepare the nose for the uncomfortable puff of spray.
Vaccines prevent illness and death. Not only do they protect the vaccinated, but if enough people receive vaccines, the unvaccinated are also partially protected because the viruses cannot spread effectively.
This is critical, because not everyone can receive vaccinations. Children with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients, must wait to be vaccinated. People who have allergic reactions to a vaccine should likely not receive another dose. Babies may simply be too young or not far enough on their vaccine schedules.
If you have no wish to protect yourself, you may still wish to protect those you come into contact with who may be at increased risk for complications.
To you, the flu may be merely inconvenient. To them, it could be deadly.
For the flu, people at risk include children younger than 5, adults age 65 and older, pregnant women and American Indians, as well as anyone with asthma, neurological conditions, chronic lung diseases, heart disease, blood, endocrine, kidney or liver disorders and more.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets vaccinated.
Some believe they can’t afford it, some dismiss the illnesses as a mere inconvenience and some are still impacted by the vaccine scare.
Many parents refused to vaccinate their children after the release of a 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield linking vaccines to autism.
His study of 12 children was found by the UK General Medical Council to be fraudulent and unethical. Wakefield subjected children to invasive tests and changed information about them in his study. There was even evidence he had planned to profit from the vaccine scare.
Wakefield has been thoroughly discredited, but continues his attempts to vilify vaccination in the U.S. The whole sordid history is well-documented by the BBC, the British Medical Journal and the Sunday Times of London.
Since 1998, multiple studies of hundreds of thousands of children have found no link between autism and vaccines.
Vaccines do have some risks, including allergic reactions, and a few people should not be vaccinated. A doctor should be consulted in that decision.
For the general public, however, vaccine side effects are usually minimal or nonexistent, and can include pain or swelling at the injection site, a mild rash, swollen glands, fever or aches. Children younger than 7 years old who receive an MMR vaccine have a slightly increased risk of seizure.
Despite these issues, vaccines remain a critical tool in the arsenal for fighting contagious disease.
Vaccines aren’t that expensive, compared to a hospital stay. Insurance typically pays the brunt of the costs, and the state of North Dakota will pay for vaccines for uninsured children up to age 18.
Without insurance, a vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis may cost about $60, a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella costs about $70, and a flu shot is about $20. Administration fees can be around $40.
Writing off these illnesses as harmless would be a deadly mistake.
Measles is not harmless. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it kills 200,000 people each year, and causes miscarriages and premature births.
Mumps is not harmless. Before the vaccine, it was a major cause of deafness in children — the CDC stated approximately one in 20,000 cases leads to deafness.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is not harmless. CDC data shows more than half of infants younger than one year old who get whooping cough must be hospitalized. Of those, one in five get pneumonia and one in 100 will die.
Influenza is not harmless. The CDC cited a study finding that in the 1990s, flu-related deaths in the U.S. alone averaged 36,000 per year.
A recent study found the whooping cough vaccine loses effectiveness faster than previously believed. Flu shots need to be taken every year, as the many flu viruses change and shift in prominence.
Keep vaccines updated. Protect your child’s hearing. Avoid a baby’s hospitalization. Prevent a death — maybe your own.
(Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper’s editorial board)