As I said in an earlier post, I am perplexed as to why we are having the discussion regarding vaccinating our children in the US. I received feedback from some who said their children were harmed by vaccines. Exactly what that harm was, I do not know. I acknowledge that there are risks to everything. However, using the vaccine risk that is small as justification to not treat our children is foolish. It reminds me of the occasional story of someone who is killed in a car accident because they were wearing a seatbelt. Does that mean I stop wearing my seatbelt, of course not. I know that sometimes things happen that are unexpected, but I have to go with the safety odds.
Just as I was trying to find a way of helping people to understand the importance of vaccines, I happened to hear an interview given by Bill and Melinda Gates. They were talking about the mortality of children under 5 years old around the world and how it is dramatically changing for the better. Why? Because of the global vaccination program.
Recent data from the World Health Organization shows that the vaccination rates are at their all-time highest. Those getting the basic DPT vaccine jumped from 66 to 79%. The death rate from measles has fallen by 92% in Africa. If the vaccination rates continue to increase, 8 million children will be saved worldwide by 2020.
The protection from vaccines goes well beyond those who are 5 and younger. As an example, hepatitis B is one of the major causes of chronic liver disease and liver cancer worldwide. When I was an intern, I watched helplessly while a 29-year-old patient of mine died of fulminant hepatitis. His liver disintegrated before my eyes. I was so grateful when the vaccine for hepatitis B was released many years later. I made sure my children got it as soon as it was available.
It is estimated that as many as a third of the world’s population has been infected with the hepatitis B virus. About 5% become chronic carriers and 25% of carriers develop serious liver disease such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis B infection is responsible for one million deaths a year worldwide. It will take time, but as the vaccine becomes more readily available this will change people’s lives and health for the better.
We are lucky in our country that vaccinations are widely accessible and affordable. Perhaps a worldwide perspective will help to understand why they are so important. Until these diseases are wiped out, with worldwide travel, we are all at risk for potentially deadly infections unless we are protected. Please vaccinate you and your babies. It will save your lives and the lives around you.