Facts on vaccs
Deterioration in handwriting with gradual neurologic compromise. History revealed that the child had contracted measles when she was less than a year old. Final diagnosis: subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.
Ascending paralysis with subsequent inflammation of the brain. History revealed child was bitten by a neighbor’s dog a month ago. Final diagnosis: rabies, paralytic type.
Lockjaw and subsequent respiratory complications. History revealed a firecracker injury. Final diagnosis: tetanus.
Three potent clinical experiences on common vaccine-preventable diseases that never fail to stir up recurring thoughts of what-if, if-only, and just maybe if, then we wouldn’t have lost them.
Of the known tools of primary prevention, vaccination and access to safe water are undoubtedly two interventions that have greatly impacted public health. Of the two, it is understandable that vaccination may necessitate and require a more extensive discussion to drive home its importance. However, what really happens after one has provided adequate and credible information? Just how many have been galvanized into action?
Vaccine hesitancy has often been cited among the many reasons why vaccine uptake is low not only for COVID but for other vaccines as well. Professor Heidi Larson, an anthropologist and director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, describes it as “a state of indecision and uncertainty about vaccination before a decision is made to act (or not act). It represents a time of vulnerability and opportunity.“
To fully grasp why people are hesitant is complex. Beyond logistics, think about a person’s beliefs, religion, values, experiences, personal views, feelings, confidence in the vaccine, trust in the government and the health care delivery system. All these come together to influence his final decision. To complicate matters, think about the deluge of misinformation and worse, disinformation that makes the whole decision process more confusing.
Of the multiple strategies proposed in addressing the problem of vaccine hesitancy, two resonate with me. First, keep messages simple and clear. Second, learn to listen to what the community is telling you. Heeding both, here are some facts on vaccines and vaccination that hopefully will help you in arriving at a decision and convince you to take action.
Fact 1: Vaccine response is not uniform for all. How one responds is unique to himself and may be influenced by several factors, which include age, nutritional status, genetics, coexisting disease, and if present, degree of immunosuppression. To be a little more technical, the response is also determined by the ingredients in the vaccine, the route of administration, and how the vaccine was stored and handled.
Fact 2: Vaccines, if given in combination, will not overwhelm your child’s immune system. Multiple combination vaccines given in childhood serve to give early protection against diseases that could potentially be fatal or debilitating. In general, live vaccines are presumed to provide lifelong immunity, and protection may extend into adulthood. Inactivated vaccines on the other hand, like tetanus and pertussis, need periodic boosting for protection to be sustained.
Fact 3: Vaccines are not designed to be free size. “One size does not fit all.“ Vaccines are made specifically for disease and targeted toward a population that is most at risk. Think of the very young, of those advanced in years, of those with comorbidities, and of those suffering from chronic conditions.
Fact 4: Vaccination provides protection for the individual and the community. This should never be an afterthought.
These four facts do not encapsulate all there is to vaccination but were formulated in response to the more common questions raised. It was an exercise to keep things simple, straightforward, and familiar.
As physicians, we are cognizant of the role we play and can play in your lives. To know that we remain to be the most trusted source of information on vaccine concerns is not only a reminder of the huge responsibility but of the privilege you give us.
Vaccination is beneficial and of public health importance, please hear us.
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