We don’t want our children and the children around them to get sick. Too often, that point gets lost. People get so worried about the risks of vaccines that they forget to worry about the risks of the diseases vaccines prevent. It’s important to know — and worry — about those, as they can be serious. Because vaccines work so well, we’ve nearly forgotten about how dangerous polio, Haemophilus influenza infections, or even chickenpox can be. The most important factors associated with the scarcity of vaccines were distrust to vaccination, fear of some vaccine components and fear of adverse reactions. Here’s what the people are worried about while getting vaccinated:
It’s certainly true that vaccines can have side effects. Any medical treatment can have a side effect. With vaccines, the most common side effects are mild, like soreness where the needle went in, or a slight fever. Serious side effects are rare. There is a database, called the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, which keeps track of all reported side effects. The information is publicly available, and I always encourage parents to look at it.
The worry used to be about thimerosal, a preservative that contains mercury. While its use was never linked to autism or any other problem, it was removed from everything except multi-dose vials of the flu vaccine out of an abundance of caution. Thimerosal-free versions of the flu vaccine are available if you’re concerned. Now the worry is about other additives, such as aluminum, that are added to keep vaccines safe and make them work better. Before getting alarmed about additives, it’s important to learn about them — because once people do, they are usually reassured. I encourage people to read about additives, and to make sure all their questions are answered.
Overwhelming The Immune System
It’s true that we give more shots to babies than we used to, but the antigens in vaccines are nothing compared to the antigens that babies, and all of us, encounter as we breathe, eat, touch things, get dirty, and otherwise live our lives. Vaccines give babies a “sneak peek” of an infection — one that can’t cause the infection, but which gives the body a chance to make antibodies so that it’s ready to fight the infection should it be exposed. It’s not overwhelming the immune system. It’s helping to make the immune system work more efficiently.
The vaccines are developed for a reason that is to stop people from getting sick and dying. This was not a money-making stunt by drug companies, as some claim. It’s normal, and understandable, to be afraid. But we need to be afraid of the right things and we need to make decisions that keep everyone safer.
We must help people better understand the enormous impact that vaccines have on the health of the population and we must continue to improve our ability to keep terrible diseases in check through the use of these vaccines.
Dr. Sunil B. Jain is the Head of Emergency Medical Services at Jaslok Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Mumbai. Dr. Jain has 15 years of experience in handling and managing all types of emergencies and 10 years of teaching experience to students pursuing post-graduation in Emergency Medicine with certified AHA BLS, ACLS, PALS instructor.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.