Everybody’s talking about… vaccination

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There’s a growing resistance to vaccinations, particularly surrounding COVID-19, but failure to vaccinate may put us all in danger. Here’s everything you should know.

What is vaccination?

Vaccination is a safe, simple and effective way to protect yourself against harmful diseases. It uses your body’s natural defence system to help you build resistance by making your immune system stronger.

Vaccines contain small amounts of weakened or killed forms of germs like bacteria or viruses, and they do not put you at risk of contracting the disease. Most vaccines are given via an injection, but some may be given orally or with a nasal spray.

At the turn of the millennium, polio was close to being eradicated, thanks to good global vaccination programmes – the same approach that wiped out smallpox. Measles was fairly under control, too. However, very recently there have been reports of isolated outbreaks. The disease that killed 2.6 million people a year in the ’70s, before a vaccine was developed, has resurfaced.

And the leading reason for the resurgence is growing resistance to having children vaccinated against measles.

Things you should know about vaccines

  • Vaccines may cause side effects, but they aren’t bad – you’ll experience a low-grade fever, discomfort and irritability at the most. Dr Dharmandra Daya, a paediatrician at Life Cosmos Hospital in Witbank, says, ‘Usually, paracetamol will sort out the symptoms.’
  • Vaccines can’t overwhelm your child’s immune system. Your child is more likely to pick up germs crawling around the living room floor.
  • Much of the anti-vaccination movement revolves around the idea that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine causes autism. However, there is no legitimate scientific evidence to prove this theory.
  • ‘Confusion arises because the time at which kids get their shots is also when we start to see signs that a child has autism,’ Dr Daya explains. ‘A lot of effort has been put into trying to find a link between vaccines and autism, and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest it as a cause. It’s pure coincidence.’
  • You place everyone in greater danger of contracting an infectious disease if you don’t vaccinate your child – vaccination works best when everybody gets inoculated.
  • Vaccines don’t provide 100% protection against all diseases. For example, Dr Daya says the BCG vaccination (commonly used to prevent TB) is only 40–50% effective. However, she goes on to say that vaccinations will still substantially reduce the risk of your child contracting some potentially life-threatening diseases.
  • By getting vaccinated, we protect ourselves and others. Some people who are very ill may be advised not to get vaccinated, so whoever is healthy enough should consider the vaccine to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What is herd immunity?

You may have heard the term ‘herd immunity’ a lot lately. When an infectious disease has infected large populations as COVID-19 has, herd immunity can protect those who aren’t immune.

For example, if 80% of people get vaccinated, then four out of every five people won’t get sick. They won’t spread the disease any further too, meaning the spread of the disease would be kept under control.

The number of people needed to get vaccinated depends on how infectious a virus is. But the more people who are vaccinated, the better the chances of achieving herd immunity.

For more COVID-19-related information, read these helpful articles:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.

References:

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