Adhering to children’s immunization schedules helps prevent the development of diseases and reduces mortality rates.
The vaccines (or vaccinus in Latin) of today exist thanks to cows (vacca). In 1778, British physician Edward Jenner realized that amidst a smallpox epidemic that was storming through Europe, the only people that did not get the illness were those who woke up every morning to milk the cows. A study was then conducted on the pustule a cow had on its utter, and it was the same strain of smallpox, except it was found on cows. The strain was then processed to treat an eight-year-old child who was able to be cured. A synthetic form of the vaccine was made, and it became the only way to fight the disease.
Dr. Iván Darío Vélez, Director of the Program for the Study and Control of Tropical Diseases at the University of Antioquia, recounts this story to explain that after this achievement “one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of humanity, as it is how vaccines started” it saved the lives of many native Latin American people, as the Spanish brought the vaccine to treat indigenous people who were dying from European smallpox.
For Dr. Vélez, the few adverse effects of vaccines are not enough to discredit them. “This would be like saying that because planes crash, flying is bad for people. This anti-vaccine movement has been going on for years. In the United States, there are entire communities that prohibit people from getting vaccinated. Of course, there have been cases of adverse effects because nothing is 100% effective in medicine, but the exception does not prove the rule.”
A preventative measure
In Colombia, according to the National Government’s Open Data webpage, immunization rates are good as 94.6% of five-year-old children have received all their vaccines.
According to the World Health Organization, each year, vaccines prevent between 2 to 3 million deaths related to diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis) and measles. “Globally, vaccination coverage has hit a plateau in the last few years. If it improved, this would prevent another 1.5 million deaths. In 2016, 86% of children from around the world (about 111.6 million) received the three doses of the combined diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccine (DTP3), which protects children from serious infectious diseases that can lead to serious disorders and disabilities, and even death.”
Infectious disease doctor María Angélica Maya affirms that it is very risky to not vaccinate children or to not complete a series, as this can be life-threatening: “Social networks are common places for misleading claims to become viral. We have to begin to educate people so that they don’t just get their information from what they read on social networks. We have to go deeper. Anyone that researches expert information on the topic is going to realize that the risk of a vaccine causing a complication is less than 1%; this is nothing if you compare it to the thousands of children that die every day from the pneumococcus bacteria.”
As Dr. Vélez says, prevention is the best medicine, “Vaccinations are not guessing games. They prepare the body for potential diseases that can be fatal. So, it is best to be informed instead of relying on messages found in social networks, which are often founded on presumptions and not real scientific research”.
Not completing a vaccine’s series poses a significant health threat to children, putting them at risk. The most common form to administer a vaccine is through an injection.