Environmental Health Promotion
This is the first mini-blog of the series “Environmental Health Promotion” which is part of the 2023 Environmental Sustainability report that emphasizes global health challenges that pose a significant threat to both the environment and human health. The objective is to raise public knowledge of environmental sustainability and global health challenges and offer individuals opportunities to prevent and reduce their exposure to these concerns. With only one world and no alternative planet, even simple actions count for the benefit of everyone. We can all play a part in preserving the world’s health, ensuring that our children and future generations can experience the same quality of life we have or even better.
You can find the other blogs related to the report here:
Vaccines and Immunization
Vaccines and immunization are critical in protecting individuals, communities, and entire populations from a variety of infectious diseases. Vaccination aids in the prevention of infectious diseases such as polio, mumps, measles, rubella, hepatitis B, and influenza. Immunization can help lower the occurrence of these diseases, which otherwise can result in hospitalization, disability, or even death. They provide safety for individuals and communities, support disease prevention, and can lead to the eradication of diseases.
Vaccines were named one of the top ten greatest achievements in biomedical science and public health at the beginning of the twenty-first century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The development of vaccines contributed to the complete eradication of smallpox, the global reduction of polio incidences, and the significant decline in the rates of measles and Hib invasive infections in children—such as meningitis, pneumonia, and arthritis.
When a large proportion of the population gets vaccinated against a disease, herd immunity develops. This means that even individuals who have not been immunized are less likely to contract the disease because there are fewer carriers of the infection. This helps to protect those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems.
Vaccines are a safe and efficient method of protecting yourself against serious infectious diseases. Being vaccinated lowers your chances of getting sick and experiencing the potential effects of these diseases. In addition, by being vaccinated, you also help the community prevent the spread of infections. Vaccines are thoroughly studied for safety and efficacy before they are licensed for use; and their benefits greatly outweigh the hazards—usually minor and transient such as discomfort at the injection site or a slight fever.
How serious is vaccine hesitancy?
Vaccination hesitancy is the unwillingness or delay in accepting vaccination despite the availability of services. This vaccine reluctance can, in some situations, lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, resulting in more unnecessary illnesses, hospitalizations, and even deaths. For example, measles outbreaks have occurred in recent years in countries where vaccination rates have dropped due to vaccine reluctance.
Vaccination reluctance can potentially have far-reaching consequences for public health. When a significant number of persons in a community are not vaccinated, herd immunity is weakened and outbreaks are more likely to emerge. This can have a particularly negative impact on vulnerable populations such as infants, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems who are unable to receive certain vaccines.
Vaccination hesitancy is frequently driven by misinformation. When people decline to get vaccinated because of inaccurate information, these attitudes can propagate and make it more difficult to promote evidence-based medicine. According to research published in The Lancet in 2020, vaccine hesitation affects around one in every five persons worldwide, with the highest levels of hesitancy observed in Europe and the Americas.
Why is it important to be vaccinated?
The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases highlights several reasons to get vaccinated, including the following:
- Vaccines will help you stay healthy and protect you from several infections. When you skip vaccinations, you expose yourself to illnesses.
- The benefits of vaccination can mean the difference between life and death. Infections that are preventable by vaccination can be fatal.
- Although severe infections and complications are more likely to affect infants and older adults, everyone is susceptible to diseases that vaccination can prevent.
- By getting vaccinated, you are safeguarding not only your immediate family but also members of your community who might not be able to receive the necessary vaccinations. Children, grandchildren, and parents may all be at risk if you become ill.
- It is extremely rare for someone to contract the disease from a vaccine. In some cases, you may experience mild symptoms after getting vaccinated, such as a fever or soreness at the injection site, but these are typically temporary and not severe.
With all that said, it is clear that you do not need to be a healthcare provider to save someone’s life. All you need is to be considerate enough and get the medically advised vaccines that are appropriate for you. You can also encourage others to do the same. Through your own knowledge and experience, you have the power to assist the most vulnerable and in need.
Author: Fion Chan*
Edited by: Jasmine Therese Arcilla
*Fion is SOGH’s Environmental Sustainability Manager. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and is pursuing a Master of Medical Science in Global Health at the University of Gothenburg.