What are Immunizations and Vaccinations?
Immunizations or the process of being immunized is when an individual’s immune system is prepared against an agent, illness, condition, or disease. Immunization is also referred to as vaccination and is considered one of the “Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century.”
When foreign molecules are introduced to a person’s bodily systems an immune response is created and along with it the ability to respond to a subsequent encounter because the immune system is adaptive. Active immunization is introducing a person or animal to an immunogen (foreign agent) in a controlled manner so that the body can learn to protect itself via immunological memory. B cells and their antibodies, as well as T cells are the two most important elements of the immune system that are improved through immunization.
What Immunizations and Vaccinations are Available?
Vaccinations are considered to be the most effective method for preventing infectious disease and are available for a number of illnesses and diseases. The word vaccination was first used by Edward Jenner in 1796, which was further developed by Louis Pasteur through his work in microbiology. Vaccines can be administered orally, through injection (either intramuscular, intradermal, or subcutaneously), by puncture, transdermal, or intranasal.
Diseases and conditions that are likely to be vaccinated against can include but are not limited to:
- HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
- Chicken Pox
- Hepatitis B
- DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis)
The Vaccination Controversy
Since their immergence into the medical world vaccinations have encountered controversy on all levels, including scientific, ethical, political, safety, religion, etc. While vaccinations can help keep people from developing certain diseases they can also cause harm. In the United States those injured through the use of vaccinations can find legal recourse and compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
However, it should be noted that injuries resulting from vaccinations are relatively rare and mass vaccination campaigns have led to the incidence of a variety of diseases across several countries being greatly reduced. In 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization was established as a means of strengthening routine vaccinations and introducing new vaccinations to third-world or otherwise poorer countries. Currently, public health mandates regarding vaccinations can be waived for those with compromised immune systems, allergies to components within the vaccine, or strong objections to being vaccinated.
VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) is a National Vaccine Safety Surveillance Program that was co-founded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS collects information concerning adverse events and possible side effects of post-marketed vaccines licensed for administration in the United States. This service provides a national vehicle for reporting the adverse effects of immunizations, analyzing and then making public this information.
VAERS lists five primary objectives, which are:
- Detect new, unusual, or rare adverse vaccine effects
- Monitor any increases in these affects
- Identify potential patient risk factors
- Identify vaccine lots with increased numbers or types of adverse events
- Assess the safety of vaccines that have recently been licensed
Number of Adverse Effects Reported Annually
Annually, VAERS receives approximately 30,000 reports, of which 13 percent are classified as serious. A serious classification includes those events that are associated with development of disability, hospitalization, life-threatening illness, and death. Approximately 85-90 percent of the reports received by VAERS describe mild effects such as fever, mild irritability and crying in infants, and local reactions.
VAERS notes that very rarely do people experience serious adverse effects following immunization. In monitoring those who do, VAERS can assist in ensuring that the benefits of vaccinations continue to far outweigh potential risk.