Immunization is considered one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. Unlike other methods, immunization has broader coverage and can protect larger populations of disease-causing organisms. Very often, vaccination and immunization are used interchangeably.
According to the CDC, immunization is when a person protects themselves from infection or disease through vaccination. The protection offered by vaccination is called immunity. Furthermore, vaccination is the process of introducing a vaccine or a weakened strain of an organism to produce immunity against a specific disease. Some available vaccines include the hepatitis B vaccine, the malaria vaccine, the tetanus vaccine, and the recently developed covid-19 vaccine. According to UNICEF, it is estimated that vaccination saves between 2 and 3 million children’s lives every year from deadly diseases. Vaccines could be used in all age groups.
In Ghana, immunization exercises for children are popularly known as ‘weigh-in’; this is where mothers are forced to send their babies for vaccinations at scheduled intervals. These babies receive, for example, five-in-one vaccines that help protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, diphtheria, and Haemophilus influenza. This exercise occurs mostly in health centers, but occasionally community health nurses are seen moving from house to house to vaccinate children whose parents were unable to bring them to immunization centers. Immunization has many benefits in addition to 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 develops immunity. Furthermore, the body forms a memory of 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 vulnerable groups in society, we need to get vaccinated so as not to infect those around us.
Immunization helps protect the next generation.
Some diseases are passed from mother to child when they are not treated or prevented. According to the WHO, examples of such diseases include hepatitis B, rubella, and HIV/AIDS. As part of the routine investigations conducted during prenatal care at our hospitals, pregnant women are screened for some of these vaccine-preventable diseases and appropriate action is taken when necessary. By getting vaccinated, we can prevent the spread or transmission of these diseases to future generations.
Immunization helps us save money and saves the government more money.
Vaccination helps prevent the onset of some diseases. However, when one becomes ill or disabled from not getting vaccinated, it places a great burden on the individual and his family. Sometimes family savings are depleted due to the need for caregivers to help. In addition, there may be frequent visits to hospitals due to the regular exposure of children to infections, especially when they start going to school and also start playing with other children. The government would have to spend a large amount of public revenue to purchase medicines to control these diseases and support these vulnerable groups, which could have been prevented with vaccines.
Immunization helps reduce certain disabilities in children.
When vaccination schedules are met on time, the specific disabilities associated with not getting vaccinated will be significantly reduced, for example, some conditions such as polio. Blindness, deafness and other forms of mental disability among children have been reduced during vaccination. According to UNICEF, measles vaccines have prevented more than 23 million deaths between 2000 and 2018.
Some misconceptions associated with immunization
Although there has been a good history of vaccine use around the world, there are still some myths associated with its use. For example, some people believe that vaccines are not safe and because the covid-19 vaccine came out quite quickly, some people have doubts about it. Vaccines, like other medicines, undergo clinical testing and trials to make sure they are safe and effective for use. They are also cleared and approved for use by various regulatory authorities, such as the FDA and ethics committees, prior to being used in the human population; this makes them safer to use.
Also, some wonder why people who have been vaccinated still get Covid-19 infections. Some vaccines provide lifelong immunity, and with others, immunity is lost after a few years. However, with the Covid-19 vaccine, it does not offer 100% immunity. With immunity built up, one may show milder symptoms when infected even after getting vaccinated. Therefore, it is necessary to take all recommended doses of vaccines to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Additionally, others believe that vaccines have microchips that could be used to track who has been vaccinated. This is not true because a single vial of vaccine could be used for more than one person and it is difficult to trace many people. Instead, data taken during vaccinations is used to follow up when there is a vaccine-associated allergic reaction and pharmacovigilance issues, meaning that vaccines remain safe even after they have left the manufacturers.
In conclusion, immunization has helped the world to eradicate some diseases such as smallpox, and some conditions have not been recorded over the years due to vaccination.
We should try to vaccinate when vaccines are available and vaccinate our children.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2021.Vaccination: the basics retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/imz-basics.htm
2. UNICEF. Immunization in Ghana Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/ghana/immunization evaluated on April 25, 2022.
3. UNICEF. Immunization recovered from https://www.unicef.org/immunization evaluated on April 25, 2022
4. World Health Organization., 2015. Myths and facts about immunization.