Immunization is the delivery of an antigen package to influence a particular immune response to a pathogen of similar nature. Before the age of 18, a person is supposed to receive a range of bacterial and viral immunization packages. Popular vaccinations include Influenza vaccine which is delivered annually in children and adults; Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP); Poliovirus (IPV); Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), Varicella (Chickenpox), Pneumococcal Vaccine(PCV), Haemophilus Influenzae type B (HIB), Rotavirus, Hepatitis A&B, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and Meningococcal A&B.
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Significance of Immunization
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) lists five reasons immunization is important, not just for the individual’s life but for the universal good:
- Immunization saves lives, as some of the diseases vaccinated against are very fatal once they attack. Smallpox was once a killer pandemic but has since been phased out thanks to the now available smallpox vaccine.
- Immunization protects generations to come. By preventing infection in the current vaccinated lot, contagious diseases are mitigated from spreading and infecting new generations. Moreover, research has it that a mother who contracts rubella during the first trimester may give birth to a child with the Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) which causes delayed development, heart defects, and deafness. The Rubella vaccine is very available and may help mitigate such generational effects.
- Immunization saves the costs of disease treatment and management. Most vaccine packages are free of charge, thanks to priority community healthcare by various stakeholders and governments. On the other hand, diseases that attack later in life may result in costly prolonged hospital stays, expensive medical procedures, and high-price medications.
- Immunization helps prevent major disabilities. Many children and adults are unfortunately suffering from permanent disabilities caused by diseases such as poliomyelitis, diseases that would have been prevented if the vaccine was administered at the right time.
- Immunization protects loved ones and the community. Some contagious infections such as measles have been seen to expose community immune weaknesses by spreading rapidly. Infants at very young ages may have not received vital vaccinations, and suffer greater risk when those infections strike. Therefore it is important for all eligible children to receive immunization in due time to help protect themselves, their families, and the young human beings who have not had the privilege of getting vaccinated.
Disclaimer: Immunization Risks
Immunization is universally hailed not for its ultimate magic in disease prevention, but because the benefits outweigh the risks. Recent research has revealed that immunized children may suffer higher risks of contracting life-threatening illnesses. The Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (HItB) has been found to increase incidents of insulin-dependent diabetes in those who receive the vaccine than those that are not immunized. Vaccines also have side effects that may expose unattended underlying conditions in children. That said, research on various vaccines is very much alive, and it is the due diligence of the parent to relay any underlying conditions with the child, and the provider to take every step to address those issues.
Immunization Enabling Factors
Immunization’s success story is made possible through collaboration of various important stakeholders including government, legislators, parents, human resource, and funding.
- Governance and leadership offers the framework of the production, distribution, and administration of vaccines across the public. Government health and finance institutions involved in the vaccination campaigns ought to exhibit high accountability to reach optimum effectiveness of immunization strategies.
- Immunization strategies are hosted by national and sub-national partners who arrive at specific target areas and generate visions and goals for the success of immunization campaigns.
- Legislation counters all compliance barriers to immunization. In some places the parent is punished for denying children immunization, while some legislations define the safety and quality standards to be embraced by health providers for a safe immunization campaign.
- Infrastructure is an important enabling factor, as it facilitates the accessibility of immunization by the public, after the vaccines have been prepared and made available free of charge. The perfect infrastructure includes up-to-date data storage facilities, defined transport networks to all zones, and unaltered communication between the public and providers.
- Health and essential human resources are key to implementing immunization campaigns. Major barriers of immunization have been attributed to a short or under-skilled human resource in immunization centers. Health and essential human resources ought not only be adequate, but skilled enough to detect, communicate, and deal with any challenges faced during immunization.
- Lastly, the immunization vaccines, professional, and infrastructure are all resources that require funding. Developing countries have galloped in under-immunization since there is only but limited funding for immunization resources. In developed countries, the public-private partnership facilitates a smooth campaign for 360 degrees immunization coverage.
Barriers to Immunization
Accessibility of immunization as a health service. Difficulties exist in the accessibility of health services and therefore immunization, as the services may be out of reach, too expensive private facilities, and too crowded public health centers. Some places have embraced mobile vaccination, such that vaccination delivery is separated from overall health services. That way, more area can be covered in a single day, and the mobility facilitates immersion of service delivery in remote places.
Immunization tracking and health recording.
Health records have been difficult to maintain not just in immunization campaigns. Some patients may randomly shift facilities, making it hard to track their immunization routine in a single medical file. Electronic Health Records and vaccine schedule cards come in handy. Further, there needs to be a parallel health record system that is accessible by multiple health facilities which may be visited by similar patients at a go.
Parental hesitancy and misconceptions.
There exists a myriad of misinformation on the implication and risk-factors associated with immunization. It is true, immunization comes with its own risks and there has to be a platform for exchange of information about the possible risks. Parental hesitancy is difficult to deal with, since some of the reasons are rooted deep in the parent’s lifestyle and culture. Parents themselves may have evaded immunization and lived equally healthy lives. This may lead them to want the same for the children, not knowing the health hazards lurking in the near future.
Providers have a role to play in giving the correct and adequate information to help the parent make an informed decision. In some jurisdictions, particular vaccinations are mandatory and the patient has no authority over their administration. This may help in cases where the parents have to be forced, with well-defined implementation procedures.
Healthcare personnel relationships with patients.
Patient-based care is also critical in immunization and may influence the parent to fulfil the immunization needs of the child, even when it contradicts their beliefs.
Other systemic barriers exist in immunization, such as inadequate infrastructure, insufficient supply, and inadequate personnel. These are challenges experienced in the entire healthcare realm, and ought to be addressed together with other healthcare services within the clinical facilities.