Opinion by Sarah O’Rourke
I know we all hate to admit it, but we are constantly surrounded by millions of disease-causing microbes. Even as you sit reading this article, you are breathing in these microbes, and there is no way to escape.
So, what protects us from constantly getting sick? The answer: Our magnificent immune system does.
What if there was a way to train the immune system to recognize pathogens and fight them immediately when you become exposed so that you do not get sick? The answer: There is a way, and it is called a vaccination.
Vaccines were developed as a way to prevent deadly, contagious diseases and save lives. They are extremely effective, almost eradicating infection rates for diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, diphtheria and pertussis. Is there any reason not to get these life-saving vaccines? Quite frankly, I cannot think of one solid reason against vaccinations. Personally, I am up to date on every single vaccine and have had absolutely no problems.
Yet many people are choosing to not vaccinate themselves or their children, which I do not understand at all. Why would you deliberately harm yourself or your child by refusing a vaccination? I recently read a story in the news about Kristin Cavallari and her refusal to vaccinate her child. She claims to be looking out for the best interests of her child, which I respect. However, not vaccinating your child is putting him or her in the way of harm.
Cavallari believes vaccines cause autism, and there have been many studies surrounding this. However, there have been no definite links between autism and vaccines. Some people also claim vaccines give them the disease they are trying to be vaccinated against. This is impossible, as vaccines only stimulate an immune response in the body, granted one that is commonly mistaken for actually contracting the disease.
When you receive a vaccine, the body detects the foreign pathogen and creates antibodies and memory cells specific to that pathogen. Mild symptoms may be experienced, but would be nothing like contracting the actual disease. These memory cells are extremely important because if you were to actually come in contact with the disease, your immune system would recognize the pathogen and mount a quick immune response, eliminating the chance of suffering from the disease.
Some people also believe they do not need vaccines because these diseases are hardly around anymore. True, you do not hear much about people having measles, mumps, polio or diphtheria. However, that is because people are getting vaccinated, so the incident rate of these diseases have gone way down.
If we stop vaccinating, these diseases will make a comeback. They are waiting out there, ready to attack, and if we are not prepared, the pathogens will take advantage of that.
These pathogens are highly contagious, especially measles. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the measles virus can live on a surface for up to two hours. If one person has measles, 90 percent of the people he or she comes into contact with will contract the disease if not vaccinated.
So let us put that into perspective. Say it is a Saturday afternoon and you decide to get groceries, go shopping at the mall, and maybe hit up a restaurant while you are out. You have probably been around a couple hundred people throughout the day.
Pretend that just one of those people was not vaccinated against measles and contracted the disease. Now you have a 90 percent chance of getting measles as well, if you are not vaccinated. Just by breathing in the same air or touching the same surface, even two hours later, you can get the disease. Scary, right?
Well, it does not have to be scary. All you need to do is make sure you are up to date on all of your vaccinations. I guarantee you will be thankful in the end.
O’Rourke is a first-year pharmacy major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org