During the holidays, one of the activities that will consume people’s time is gift-giving: What gift(s) to get the important people in our lives, how much money to spend, how many to buy, etc. Surely, the holiday season presents the distinct joys of giving and receiving gifts. However, it’s also important to remember the gifts we as a society have received — gifts like vaccines.
At one time, parents and children lived with the day-to-day fear of diseases like smallpox and polio. However, the advent of vaccines was truly a life-saving gift, protecting against both physical harm and emotional fear. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the gifts routine childhood immunizations provide:
The obvious gift provided by vaccination is immunity. When parents take their children to get vaccinated, although it may be difficult to watch, they can be reassured by the fact that their children are now likely to be protected from some of the most common and potentially fatal illnesses of childhood.
Parents often feel that they do not have control when it comes to vaccinations because of the seemingly burdensome vaccine schedule mandates. However, vaccines actually provide parents with a measure of control that they would not otherwise have. By inducing immunity in a controlled setting — at a certain age and with a vaccine rather than an infection — parents can control when and how their child is exposed to these diseases. Indeed, when we are exposed to pathogens in our everyday lives, we may or may not know how, where or when the exposure occurred. Further, parents can know the “severity” of the exposure because vaccines provide immunity using the lowest possible dose and in a way that does not typically cause symptoms or complications of natural infection. For example, natural measles infections kill two out of every 1,000 infected people, but a severe allergic reaction to the MMR vaccine occurs no more frequently than once in every 1 million vaccinated people.
Because vaccines can also decrease the spread of diseases in a community, getting ourselves and our children immunized contributes to the common good. When enough people in a community are immunized, a disease is far less likely to spread. And remember, some people can’t be vaccinated; they depend on those around them for protection.
According to a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), routine childhood immunization was estimated to prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths.
The CDC report also found that vaccines given to children between 1994 and 2013 saved $295 billion in direct medical costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs.
So this holiday season as gift-giving is on your mind, don’t forget the intangible gifts you can give your child and your community through acts of love, such as vaccination.