If you’ve ever gotten a flu shot, you’ve taken part in an immunization program. Adults don’t have much reason for concern if they choose not to get the yearly flu vaccine, because their immune systems are generally healthy and vigorous. They will be more prone to getting the flu, of course, but that’s their decision. Children, however, are much more vulnerable, and making sure they have access to vaccines is crucial. Unfortunately, a large number of children and infants around the world don’t get vaccinated–simply because the vaccines aren’t available to them.
The majority of children without access to vaccines live in third-world or developing countries, such as India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, Ethiopia, and Brazil. In fact, about 21.8 million children a year don’t get their necessary vaccines, making them at risk for contracting potentially deadly diseases. In Africa, for example, the main causes of death in infants are pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and HIV. Every year, 2.9 million children die from such diseases in this part of the world–mainly because they don’t have access to vaccines or proper healthcare.
In the West, if parents choose not to vaccinate their children, there is still a risk of them contracting an illness but nothing as deadly as the diseases mentioned above. However, children can still develop serious illnesses if they’re not vaccinated. Whooping cough, for example, is an illness that is especially deadly for young children and can be prevented with a series of vaccines. Measles is another disease which puts children at risk and can also be prevented with a simple vaccine.
Many illnesses have already been eradicated due to immunizations: Smallpox, one of history’s most devastating diseases, is just one example. After years of vaccination programs, smallpox was finally stamped out on May 8, 1980. Measles is another example of a disease which has been greatly reduced in the United States through vaccines. However, in recent years, the illness has made a resurgence due to members of anti-vaccination movements choosing not to vaccinate their children against the virus.
Parents who know all of this and still refuse to vaccinate their kids are putting not only their children at risk, but others as well. If an unvaccinated child contracts measles, for instance, and walks around in public areas, they can spread the illness to other people with weaker immune systems, including other children who may be too young to get vaccines. Negligent parents often fail to understand how their actions may affect others.
To sum up: Immunization programs are important both in first- and third-world countries. Globally, vaccines prevent children from developing serious diseases and save millions of lives.
Written by Natan Rosenfeld