St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Individuals have a right to decline getting vaccinated; however, Dr. Andrew Holness urged the public to get as much information as possible before making that decision for themselves or their children.
Callers to the Meridian Medical Corner program on WINN FM’s Breakfast Show Wednesday (April 19) questioned whether vaccines were necessary or safe. Dr. Holness explained that the more people got vaccinated, the safer the entire community would be from certain types of diseases.
“Yes they benefit, all these people who don’t take vaccines they benefit health wise from the people who do because if the majority of the population is immunized, and has gotten an immunity to a particular disease, then that disease does not spread in the population. So if there’s 100 of us and 90 of us are immunized, it is very difficult for the infecting agent to seek out those 10 people amidst the 100 of us and get infected. If 90 of us were not immune and only 10 were immune then it would easily spread from one person to the next because there are many persons it could go to.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease and typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing micro organism which is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these micro-organisms that it later encounters according to the WHO.
Dr. Holness spoke to the difference between vaccination and immunization.
“Where the vaccination comes in is that we take something from that virus, the polio virus for example, that allows our body to recognize it without it harming us. So you split apart the virus and you say the virus is made up of an outside piece and an inside piece, the inside piece is what kills us but the outside piece is like the shell, that is what we use to recognize what it is. Our body now can use the outside piece, and what we do with the vaccine, is that we give the body we use the outside piece and that outside piece serves as a flag and our bodies now jumps on that marker and attacks it as if it was the real thing and then provides that immunity, that file cabinet of resources and strategies to fight that disease.”
He added that the severity of side effects varied from person to person.
“There are some people who for whatever reason, don’t want or can’t have the vaccinations because there are these side effects that some persons find intolerable. Some people are allergic and every allergic reaction can be potentially fatal and so we always ask the questions are you allergic to these things. The vaccines have gotten better so that we are trying to find and using things that are less toxic, in the old days we used to use things like mercury in the vaccines, which is bad news, we didn’t know then and we know now and now mercury is not a part of vaccines. Some people are allergic to some of the egg protein that we use to make some of the vaccines and so these are legitimate concerns and there are some people who can’t legitimately take it for safety reasons.”
One of the biggest side effects, he said, was the fever.
“One of the things we don’t do is give a kid a vaccine when they’ve had a fever in the last three days, so you as parents it is important know this. That is one of the things that I check, make sure you measure the temperature currently and ask about a fever in the last three days because a lot of people get fevers form vaccinations.”
Dr. Andrew Holness speaking on the Meridian Medical Program on The Breakfast Show on WINN FM Wednesday morning. Some measures have been taken over the years to improve the vaccination procedure such as introducing the use of smaller disposable needles Dr. Holness told listeners.
The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that diseases that used to be common around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis also known as whooping cough, rubella also known as German measles, mumps, tetanus, rotavirus and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) can now be prevented by vaccination. The CDC also states that thanks to a vaccine, one of the most terrible diseases in history – smallpox – no longer exists outside the laboratory.
Next week will be recognized as World Immunization Week which is celebrated during the last week of April. According to the WHO, it aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease which states that immunization saves millions of lives and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions.