Vaccinations are the most effective preventative measures that you can take for your child as a mother. Scientific advances in the immunology field have witnessed the successful eradication of devastating viruses like polio, liberating whole generations from the ravages of the virus. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories over the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations are very common. The internet has facilitated the growth of the “anti-vaxxer” movement, a loose coalition of parents and concerned citizens who are worried about the alleged damaging effects of vaccines. Here is a brief rundown of the most important information regarding vaccines and how you can combat vaccine myths with truths.
How do vaccinations work?
Much of the misinformation and misunderstanding about vaccines stem from a poor conceptualization of how vaccines work. Vaccines do not actually introduce an active virus into the body. Instead, vaccines contain molecules of viruses called antigens. The immune system analyzes these antigens. This gives the system time to prepare for a real attack by the virus and create antibodies designed to kill it. There is no risk of actually developing a disease caused by a live virus because vaccines only contain the antigens.
The importance of herd immunity
The most harmful impact of refusal by so-called “anti-vaxxers” to participate in vaccination programs is that it chips away at herd immunity. Herd immunity refers to the documented scientific phenomenon of mass immunity to a vaccine thanks to the synergistic effect of mass vaccination. Once a population has been entirely or almost entirely vaccinated, then the particular virus cannot penetrate society. In this case, even unvaccinated members of the population receive the benefit. However, this leads to the “freeloader” problem of people opting out of vaccines because they don’t see the risk. If everyone adopted this attitude, then vaccinations would decline, opening up the door for viruses previously thought to be eradicated to crawl back into the population. Part of being a responsible member of society, as a mother, means vaccinating yourself and your child against whatever viruses threaten the population
Are vaccines always safe?
The essential problem with combatting the anti-vaxxer movement is that there are, in fact, rare instances that they point to in which vaccines can cause adverse reactions. Some people, small children included, can experience an intense immune response to a vaccine and become ill. Most vaccine-related illnesses pass quickly and do no permanent harm. Doctors are trained to identify adverse reactions and report them to relevant public health authorities.
Thousands of people have already been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, and many more will likely be diagnosed before the pandemic is over. The most dire projection models indicate the possibility of mass deaths on par with the 1918 flu, but only time will tell the extent of the damage.
Scientists are hard at work trying to synthesize a workable coronavirus vaccine. However, we can expect delays in its development and distribution to last several months at least.
In times like these, the importance of mass vaccinations is clearer than ever. If we had developed a coronavirus vaccine for this particular strain before it ripped through the global population, the forecast for the virus’s spread would look quite different. Pushing back against anti-vaccine propaganda is crucial for our long-term collective health. Do your part by becoming educated in what vaccines are, how they work, and how they save lives.