Global Health Research - Vaccine Hesitancy By Keshav Jwalapuram

Updated: Mar 3, 2021


Ever since the CDC rolled out COVID vaccines from various pharmaceutical companies, there has been a lot of commotion and media coverage. One would expect that people are going to jump at this opportunity to escape the clutches of the coronavirus and indulge in their former lifestyles once again. Surprisingly, there are quite a few naysayers who do not believe in the miracles of vaccines. Their fear comes from the possible side effects or cost to apply for vaccinations. However, after recognizing the health and economic benefits of vaccines for both the present and future generations, it can be inferred that many dangerous infections around the world can be eradicated with ease if more people apply for vaccinations.


HEALTH BENEFITS

A common misconception about vaccines is that while they help prevent diseases, they have a high likelihood of causing dangerous side effects, which may prove to be worse than the diseases themselves in the long run. This is factually incorrect when taking into account the myriad of lives saved from vaccines as stated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the harmless ingredients used in vaccines as stated by the Department of Health and Human Services. Each ingredient in a vaccine mainly functions by helping with either the immunization process or the preservation of the vaccine itself. (Department of Health and Human Services)


The argument that vaccinations cause side effects, however, is not completely invalid. In fact, there have been cases of fatigue, headaches, soreness, and fever which happen to be the most common side effects of vaccines. However, these symptoms cannot possibly be compared to the devastating measles outbreaks in the 20th century. The measles epidemic ravaged American populations due to low vaccination rates. In order to improvise upon the flawed notions that existed during previous outbreaks, the significant health benefits of vaccines must be endorsed around the world.


The NIH states that before the measles vaccine was approved in 1963, the measles virus infected at least 2 million Americans a year, causing 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations. (National Institutes of Health). The NIH states that the measles outbreak worsened due to the poor implementation and usage of vaccinations in America. This statement implies that the measles outbreak started to cool down after the vaccination was created and used more frequently.


ECONOMIC BENEFITS

The healthcare field has many problems with affordability. Health insurance continues to maintain exclusivity from the majority of the population and countries are struggling to implement affordable healthcare for their people. As a result of an outbreak, hospitals have to carry the financial burden of treating uninsured patients, which can hinder their ability to provide optimal care. The usage of vaccines greatly reduces healthcare costs for both providers and consumers. Vaccinations are relatively inexpensive to apply for compared to other methods of preventive medicine. In addition, getting vaccinated lowers treatment and productivity costs for healthcare providers and the economy in general.


There are various health insurance plans that help increase the affordability of vaccines for low-income families, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Vaccines for Children Program. (Department of Health & Human Services). While the financial benefits of vaccines are abundantly clear, the drawbacks of “anti-vax behavior” are a completely different story altogether. Skipping out on vaccinations is not only impactful healthwise, but also catastrophic for the economy. Healthcare providers will have to spend more money and time treating diseases that could have been prevented with the use of a vaccine. Additionally, infected patients may be susceptible to prolonged and chronic ailments which can inhibit their ability to return to their productive lives. The added expenses for both healthcare providers and patients is unnecessary and unsustainable compared to the accessibility and affordability of a vaccine.


According to a study funded by Merck, people who contract diseases preventable by vaccines cost the U.S. economy about $7 billion a year. (Keeffe). An annual $7 billion loss in the economy exemplifies the devastating effects that can occur if many people do not get vaccinated and put themselves at risk of disease. Due to a lack of capacity, healthcare facilities are seldom prepared to deal with pandemics and outbreaks. Any surge in infected patients causes medical institutions to be stretched to their maximum. Not only does applying for vaccinations serve to economically benefit patients and healthcare providers alike, but avoiding vaccinations can negatively impact the overall economy.


IMPACT ON FUTURE GENERATIONS

Vaccinations protect future generations because they help prevent the spreading of infections, which is what germs rely on to survive and reproduce. If vaccines are used to eliminate the germs of infectious diseases, then those diseases will not exist in the future to terrorize the coming generations.


Although vaccines have reduced harmful infectious diseases, the germs that cause diseases such as VPD still exist and can spread to people who are not vaccinated, keeping the infection alive. (Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology). Before the polio vaccine was developed and approved, Canadians were suffering from paralysis or dying from polio by the thousands. For the last 20 years however, Canada has been polio-free due to the increased use of polio vaccinations (British Columbia). There are many who are skeptical about whether vaccines are effective enough to eradicate current infections and cause a significant impact that greatly influences the population of the future generation. The CDC has predicted the prevention of future illnesses from vaccinations to be in the hundreds of millions.


The CDC estimates that the vaccination of children born between 1994 and 2018 will prevent 419 million illnesses and help avoid 936,000 deaths in the future. (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention). The data shown by the CDC has proven the astronomical effect of vaccinations on the population of the next generation, but I believe that it is the influence that matters the most. The countless number of lives saved can inspire the future and help set a standard to apply for vaccinations. Promoting the astounding results of vaccinations on the human population can positively influence all the generations to come.


After reviewing the health and economic benefits of vaccines for both the present and future generations, it is undoubtedly clear that vaccinations serve as the best method of preventive medicine for eradicating dangerous infections across the world. It is most important to note, however, that healthcare is slowly transitioning from treating and curing diseases to controlling and preventing outbreaks. Humans are becoming increasingly vulnerable to various new infections, making it preferable for healthcare workers to divert their focus to preventive methods of medicine rather than consistently provide treatment methods for unknown diseases. With a new viral strand of COVID on the rise, how much time does humankind have to acknowledge the importance of preventive medicine and the great potential of vaccines to emerge victorious from the battle against these life-threatening pathogens?


Works Cited

“How to Pay.” Vaccines, www.vaccines.gov/get-vaccinated/pay.

Keeffe, Patrick. “People Who Don’t Get Vaccinations Cost U.S. Economy $7 Billion a Year.” People Who Don’t Get Vaccinations Cost U.S. Economy $7 Billion a Year | Healthline, 11 Nov. 2016, www.healthline.com/health-news/vaccinations-cost-us-economy-7-billion-a-year.

Stack, Meghan L, et al. “Estimated Economic Benefits during the 'Decade of Vaccines' Include Treatment Savings, Gains in Labor Productivity.” Health Affairs (Project Hope), U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21653952.

Saunders, Margaret K. “Economic Benefit Of Vaccines Highlighted In 2017 Bill & Melinda Gates Annual Letter: Health Affairs Blog.” Economic Benefit Of Vaccines Highlighted In 2017 Bill & Melinda Gates Annual Letter | Health Affairs, 21 Feb. 2017, www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20170221.058855/full/.

“The Importance of Childhood Vaccinations.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/importance-childhood-vaccinations.

“Vaccination Saves Lives.” APIC, apic.org/news/vaccination-saves-lives/.

“VFC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Mar. 2019, www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/protecting-children.html.

“Vaccines: Vac-Gen/Side Effects.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Apr. 2020, www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm.

“Vaccine Ingredients.” Vaccines, www.vaccines.gov/basics/vaccine_ingredients.

“Why Vaccinate?” Immunize BC, 13 Apr. 2020, immunizebc.ca/why-vaccinate.

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