In 1998 Andrew Wakefield published a paper that claimed to link the MMR vaccine – which treats measles, mumps, and rubella – to autism. Even though the paper was retracted and Wakefield’s medical license was revoked in 2010, the myth that vaccines cause autism or are otherwise harmful has led to a growing movement against vaccination.
Unfortunately, the only ones to benefit from the movement are the preventable diseases that used to be a thing of the past – measles, mumps, and whooping cough are all making comebacks in what is now becoming a public health issue.
Because of this new debate about the safety of vaccines, it’s important to remember the reasons why immunization is important in the first place. Read on to find out the top three benefits of getting vaccinated.
1. Nurses Know That Vaccines Save Lives
It’s hard to imagine 300,000 cases (almost the entire population of Victoria) of measles occurring in a single year. And yet, before routine immunization, that was precisely how many people contracted measles in Canada on an annual basis. Since the introduction of regular vaccination, the annual cases of measles, mumps and whooping cough have plummeted, and polio has been eradicated from the Western hemisphere.
The anti-vaccination trend has unfortunately led to a return of these contagious diseases. 2014 was an alarming year for BC nursing schools, after a measles outbreak swept through Fraser Valley and infected over 400 people. While nobody was seriously harmed in this outbreak, untreated measles can cause pneumonia, encephalitis and can sometimes be fatal.
2. Vaccines Are Safe
Fears that vaccines cause autism, ADHD, or other conditions have turned people away from vaccinating their children or getting vaccinated themselves. What people don’t often realize is that vaccines are rigorously tested and face tougher safety standards than most other medications and pharmaceutical products on the market.
Immunization skills workshops, like the one offered at Stenberg College, allow nursing program graduates to refresh their vaccination skills. The general population should know that professionals with practical nursing trainingcontinually attend workshops and refresher courses to ensure their skills are up to date.
3. Herd Immunity Protects Everyone
Some members of the population can’t get vaccinated. They might have a weakened immune system, severe allergies, or simply be too young to receive vaccines. As a result, they miss out on the life-saving protection vaccines offer against preventable diseases.
Herd immunity occurs when a high percentage of the population is vaccinated. When enough people are immune, diseases have a much harder time spreading, and are thus less likely to reach people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients. Vaccination isn’t just about personal health: it’s also about protecting the entire community.
How can nursing professionals promote immunization within their community?