Developing countries are struggling with such problems as malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea and measles. These problems have caused countless deaths and the worst part is that these deaths were avoidable. Many of them could have been stopped by means of immunization – that is why vaccination is so important.
Whether a child will become ill or die depends on the strength of his or her immune system. Unfortunately, this system is weakened by things like malnutrition and unsanitary conditions. Natural disasters (earthquakes, floods) create crowded conditions that are also challenging for immune systems. Unfortunately, many children are unimmunized due to unavailability of vaccines and proper health care or family disinformation about when and why children should be administrated particular vaccines.
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a preparation of biological origin, containing antigen that stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize it as foreign substance, destroy it, and create a memory-vaccination. With this memory, in case of another contact with the antigen (infection), the immune response develops faster and it is much stronger (secondary resistance). This is designed to prevent the natural occurrence of the disease with its standard clinical symptoms.
Vaccines are able to stop or decrease morbidity from infection. Vaccination is believed to be the most powerful means to prevent infectious diseases from spreading. At this moment, licensed vaccines can stop or help to prevent and control 25 infections.
Immunization – How does it work?
Nowadays, we are in possession of several kinds of vaccines. Some of them are live virus, some inactive or killed virus, others are detoxified versions of a toxin. There are also vaccines that consist of components of the virus or bacteria. All vaccines trigger the organism to produce antibodies but do not cause the disease.
Immunity can be passed on to children by their mothers during the period of pregnancy. How long the child will be immune after birth depends on the type of disease and determines the moment of a child’s immunization. For instance, after birth, a child is protected against measles by mother’s antibodies for 6 to 12 months, while for pertussis the immunity lasts only for a couple of weeks. Many diseases can still strike after one dose of a vaccine; that is why immunity, in some cases, must be built up with the help of several doses.
When we speak about immunization it is important to understand that the more immunized children become, the healthier the community becomes. In such a community, even the children who have not been vaccinated are less likely to get sick because the infection doesn’t have the opportunity to spread, and the immunized children cannot become carriers. This phenomenon is called “herd” immunity and it is very important when it comes to highly contagious diseases.
Taking all of this into consideration, the conclusion is simple and clear – vaccination is vital in keeping communities in good health, especially in areas where living conditions are extremely bad. Vaccinations help save children from pointless deaths.
The main problem is still the same. There is not enough money, supplies and health personnel to provide all the children around the world with proper immunization. The remote locations, poverty and conflicts in particular regions are great obstacles to reaching the children and their mothers with vaccines.
Changes in the market are also worth noting. The big pharmaceutical companies are merging and introducing into the market new, more expensive vaccines that are affordable only for industrialized countries. It requires a good deal of planning to avoid a shortage of supplies for developing countries. The financial help of donors is of paramount importance. Without money there is no way to buy all the necessary vaccines.
Additionally, the economy of war in many regions is a big problem. There is no cash flow in these warring communities and health personnel must be paid. If not, there is a possibility that they will start working for the warlords, causing a deficit of people in the healthcare system. So again, the problem is about money.
How can you help?
Just $1 per day provides 48 children with Polio vaccine. Polio is a viral infection that is extremely contagious and incurable. It can lead to crippling paralysis or, in some cases, death. An additional $1 per day can provide 15 Tetanus Toxoid Vaccinations. Help AORF to help others.