When Edward Jenner created what is now considered the world’s first vaccine in 1796, it paved the way to save an untold amount of lives. Today, vaccines are our most important line of defense against a plethora of diseases. Many diseases that once plagued society have now been almost entirely eliminated from the gene pool thanks to vaccine initiatives. And when new pathogens such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus are responsible for causing COVID-19 pop-up, developing an effective vaccine has been the only way to end the ensuing pandemic.
Unfortunately, while vaccines are certainly effective at stopping the spread of illness, they can’t do anything to stop the spread of misinformation. Today, vaccine hesitancy due to online misinformation is leading more and more people to forgo immunization for themselves and their children. This has created a health crisis that has left many medical experts scrambling for solutions.
As part of ongoing efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy, the CDC and numerous other organizations have begun recognizing August as “National Immunization Awareness Month“. To help promote the importance of immunization and push back against vaccine misinformation, let’s take a closer look at the goals and objectives of this life-saving initiative.
What is National Immunization Awareness Month and Why is it Necessary?
At the time of this writing, only 67.9% of Americans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and this number is only as high as it is thanks to monumental community outreach efforts on behalf of the government, the medical community, and private organizations.
In recent years, several diseases that were once thought to be all but eradicated have made a return due to low vaccination rates. Measles and mumps are two such diseases that have begun to make a concerning return, and both of these diseases can be fatal to small children in serious cases.
So how is that vaccine hesitancy is causing these diseases to return? The answer has to do with a concept called “herd immunity”. When a sufficient percentage of a population is given immunity to a disease via vaccination, the disease is unable to spread through that population even to those who are not vaccinated. This protects those who are unable to get vaccinated due to age or medical conditions. When enough people who are able to be vaccinated choose not to, though, herd immunity isn’t reached.
There was a time not that long ago when no one questioned the safety of vaccines that have saved so many lives. However, the internet has allowed untold amounts of misinformation regarding vaccines to spread unchecked. Vaccines causing autism, vaccines containing dangerous levels of mercury, and even conspiracies regarding vaccines being used as a way to plant microchips in people are just a few of the myths that many people have come to accept as facts.
This misinformation has created a health crisis that threatens to reintroduce the world to a number of diseases we thought we’d already defeated, and National Immunization Awareness Month is just one of many efforts to push back against this misinformation.
Where Can I Learn More About Vaccines?
Dispelling all the myths surrounding vaccines and highlighting the truths that countless reputable studies have proven is a big undertaking. Rather than trying to attempt and do that here, we at Bikham Healthcare wanted to take this opportunity to direct our readers to resources from organizations that are on the front lines of combating vaccine misinformation.
The CDC’s vaccine safety page is one great place to find reliable information and presents clinical research conducted by the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office. Other trustworthy organizations that publish research on vaccine safety include the US Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. For a complete list of reliable vaccine resources, check out this document from Immunize.org.