National Immunization Awareness Month is an annual commemoration celebrated in August every year to highlight the significance of immunization for individuals of all ages. This blog discusses everything you need to know about immunization.
Since the past 200 years, humans have been protected against a variety of ailments that endanger lives and stifle human growth. Every year, immunization saves millions of lives and is largely regarded as one of the most effective health interventions in the world. Despite this, almost 20 million children worldwide still do not receive the vaccinations they require, and many others lose out on essential vaccines during childhood and later in life.
What is immunization?
Immunization is a method of gaining immunity against multiple diseases. When you’re unwell, your body produces antibodies to help you recover. These antibodies remain in your body after the disease has passed, protecting you from contracting the same ailment in the future. Immunity is the term for this. You don’t have to get sick to acquire immunity, though.
By introducing a vaccine into the body, an immune response is induced, through which people are protected from diseases, similar to when an individual contracts a disease naturally. Vaccines contain some or all of the same antigens or antigen components that cause the illness, but the antigens are either destroyed or significantly weakened before they are administered. As a result, vaccines function because they deceive your body into believing it is being invaded by an actual illness. Specific immune cells known as memory cells prevent re-infection once a person has been vaccinated against a disease.
Why are vaccines important for you?
Certain members in one’s family or community may not be able to get vaccinated for certain diseases, owing to their age or medical condition. For them, it’s your job to keep diseases at bay. Those with weak immune systems and infants are more prone to infectious diseases. For instance, newborn children are too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough, even though is very dangerous for them.
Every disease comes with its set of symptoms and post recovery complications which one can avoid through vaccination, for example; the flu vaccination reduces your risk of flu-related heart attacks and other flu-related consequences from pre-existing medical disorders such as diabetes and chronic lung disease and the Covid-19 vaccines reduces one’s risk of developing chronic respiratory and cardiac conditions which has been the main causes of death of people who contracted it.
Vaccines can protect you from:
- Diphtheria (bacterial infection of the nose and throat)
- Hepatitis (A & B)
- Human papillomavirus (infection of the reproductive tract)
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Rotavirus (a virus that causes diarrhea and other intestinal symptoms)
Scheduled vaccinations and the Covid-19
In order to protect people and communities from vaccine-preventable illnesses and outbreaks, it is important that routine vaccinations continue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Routine vaccination averts diseases that require medical visits and hospitalization which puts added strain on the healthcare system.
While the world’s attention is focused on essential new vaccines to guard against the coronavirus and its variants, there is still a need to ensure that routine immunizations are not neglected. During the pandemic, nearly 23 million children around the world missed out on routine vaccinations, placing them at danger of severe illnesses such as polio and measles. This concern is exacerbated by the rapid spread of disinformation about vaccinations.
This year onwards, encourage more participation in immunization programs to promote the value of vaccination in bringing people together and enhancing the health and well-being of everyone, everywhere. Immunization also brings us closer to a better world of visiting friends, travelling without worry, stronger economies and systems, and so much more.
WHO, 2021. World immunization week 2021 – vaccines bring us closer. World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2021/04/24/default-calendar/world-immunization-week-2021.
CDC, 2016. Reasons for adults to be vaccinated. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/reasons-to-vaccinate.html.
Zingman, 2021. Whooping cough (pertussis) in children. Whooping Cough (Pertussis) in Children – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=P02533#:~:text=Whooping%20cough%20(pertussis)%20is%20a%20contagious%20illness%20caused%20by%20bacteria,(paroxysms)%20of%20coughing%20start.
Immunize, 2019. What is immunization? Immunize Canada – immunize.ca. Available at: https://immunize.ca/what-immunization.
Nebehay, S., 2021. Child diseases on rise as Covid-19 SLOWS routine VACCINATIONS -U.N. Reuters. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/breakingviews/child-diseases-rise-covid-19-slows-routine-vaccinations-un-2021-07-14/.
Goodman, S., 2020. Immunizations and vaccines: Benefits, risks, effectiveness. WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/children/vaccines/immunizations-vaccines-power-of-preparation.