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Guest Blog: Vaccination Advocation

12/11/2013

Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by Emily Weig, a junior Biology research major with a minor in chemistry at Loras College. Emily won a challenge by her professor to write a post for this blog about why you should vaccinate your children. She plans to attend medical school after finishing undergrad and I’m sure will be an asset to the medical community.

There is a lot of information on the Internet about IF you should vaccinate, WHEN you should vaccinate, and WHY you shouldn’t vaccinate your baby. It can be confusing and overwhelming when someone is deciding whether or not to give their baby vaccinations, and misinformation is rampant.

Vaccination is good for many reasons, but the most important is that it protects against infectious and deadly diseases.

Vaccines save lives. 

Before the diphtheria vaccine there were 175,885 cases of diphtheria every year in the United States. In 2008, with the vaccine, there were 0 cases. Measles, mumps, and rubella all have similar statistics. Vaccines really do work to protect each child that receives them; they do this because they simulate what would happen if the body were really exposed to the virus or bacteria. A vaccine contains a weakened or dead virus, which is not able to reproduce in the human body, so it cannot make you sick.

Vaccines cannot make you sick.

When the immune cells come into contact with this virus they are fooled into thinking it is the real virus. Certain immune cells come into contact with the dead virus and engulf the virus and chop it up. They then take this chopped up virus to your lymph nodes where it shows it to other immune cells called T cells. Only the T cell that recognizes that exact virus is turned on. While this is happening other cells, called B cells, have also come into contact with the virus, engulfed it, and are now taking it back to the lymph node where they also show the virus to the activated T cell. When the T cell recognizes this piece of the virus, called an antigen, it tells the B cells to make what are called antibodies.

These antibodies provide us with immunity against the specific virus. The antibodies are shaped specifically so they fit around a piece of the virus or bacteria. The next time the body is exposed to the same infectious agent, the antibodies will immediately surround the invader and the “cleaning crew” of the body will come in and get rid of the invader before the rest of the body even knows it is there. This is why we don’t get sick when we receive a vaccine beforehand. Once we have a vaccine our immune system is ready to respond to that invader, and it is gone before we even know it is there.

Another way vaccines work is to provide what is called herd immunity. There can be some confusion associated with this term. Herd immunity is when most everyone is vaccinated against a particular disease and therefore the likelihood of an outbreak occurring is very slim.

Unvaccinated children are a threat to the most vulnerable amongst us.

Some people who are against vaccines raise the question,  “why would my un-vaccinated kids be a threat to your vaccinated kids, if you’re so sure that vaccines work?” Herd immunity is not dealing with the children who are vaccinated, it is about those who are unable to get the vaccine. Some children are too young or have weakened immune systems that make them unable to receive the vaccine. This is what herd immunity is about, protecting those who can’t receive the vaccine and are most vulnerable.

Vaccinations do not cause autism.

Another concern among parents who are trying to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children is the occurrence of autism. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that there is no link between vaccinations and autism. A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that there was no relationship between the number of antibody stimulating proteins (i.e. vaccines) given and the risk of developing autism. This means that parents do not have to worry about “giving” their child autism when they give their children vaccines. Although there can be side effects to vaccines, there are side effects to anything we take into our body, even food. The benefits for getting a vaccine greatly out way the small possibility of there being negative side effects.

Babies immune systems can handle vaccines.

There is also the topic of when to get the vaccines. Some parents might be concerned that their young children are being exposed to too much all at once. While this is a valid concern, the reality is that as soon as babies are born they are exposed to so many bacteria that, in perspective, the vaccines are just a small fraction of what they are exposed to on a daily basis.  Additionally, their immune systems are ready to handle these small and weakened infectious agents at a young age. There has been a lot of research and even though they are giving more vaccines at once than they previously did, the amount of antigens (pieces of virus or bacteria that are injected) is less than in the past. Children get protected from more infectious agents, but are exposed to less viral and bacterial particles.

It is very important to get your children vaccinated; not just for their sake, but for the sake of everyone.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Demetra Siambis permalink
    01/02/2014 01:39

    Having worked as a flu nurse I’d like to add just 1 point re: the influenza vaccine! IF you get sick soon after receiving the flu shot it means you were exposed to that flu strain culprit prior to receiving the flu shot OR you succumbed to a strain that the current season flu formulation didn’t cover.

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