It seems like every time I turn on the news lately, there is an article, post, tweet or podcast on the topic of vaccines. More accurately, the rapid spread of vaccine-preventable diseases and the arguments for and against immunizations. As a disclaimer to this hot button topic, the Library is here as a resource for parents, caregivers and individuals to gather information and come to a decision that is right for them. That said, let me share some insights from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other resources that I found helpful coming to my own conclusions on the topic.
What is a vaccine?
The World Health Organization defines vaccines as "a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and 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 microorganisms that it later encounters."
What is vaccine hesitancy?
"Vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific varying across time, place and vaccines. It includes factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence." If you are looking for a more technical analysis on the topic, you can consult the WHO SAGE Vaccine Hesitancy Working Group report.
Why should we care?
The World Health Organization has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019. According to WHO, "The world is facing multiple health challenges. These range from outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and diphtheria, increasing reports of drug-resistant pathogens, growing rates of obesity and physical inactivity to the health impacts of environmental pollution and climate change and multiple humanitarian crises."
Where can I find out more?
The library has resources on the topic of vaccines and immunization from a wide range of perspectives. Here is a sampling of some recent publications:
"Controversies and skepticism surrounding vaccinations, though not new, have increasingly come to the fore as more individuals decide not to inoculate themselves or their children for cultural, religious, or other reasons. Their personal decisions put the rights of the individual on a collision course with public and community safety. Public Health in the Age of Anxiety enhances both the public and scholarly understanding of the motivations behind vaccine hesitancy in Canada."
"Using science-informed analysis alongside original art and powerful essays, health science leader Timothy Caulfield debunks the myths and false assumptions about vaccination safety and effectiveness. Accessible, informative, and entertaining, The Vaccination Picture tells the true story of vaccines, their uses, and their positive effects for everyone."
"Diseases that were largely eradicated in the U.S. a generation ago - including whooping cough, measles, mumps - are returning, in part because nervous parents are skipping their children's shots. This takes viewers around the world to track epidemics, explore the science behind vaccinations, and shed light on the risks of opting out. The vast majority of Americans - more than 90% - vaccinate their children. Yet many people have questions about the safety of vaccines."
"In this controversial new book, Stuart Blume argues that the processes of globalization and people's unsatisfied healthcare needs are eroding faith in the institutions producing and providing vaccines. He tells the history of immunization practices, from the work of early pioneers such as Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch to the establishment of the World Health Organization and the introduction of genetic engineering. Immunization exposes the limits of public health authorities while suggesting how they can restore our confidence. Public health experts and all those considering vaccinations should read this timely history."
"In Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism, Hotez draws on his experiences as a pediatrician, vaccine scientist, and father of an autistic child. Outlining the arguments on both sides of the debate, he examines the science that refutes the concerns of the anti-vaccine movement, debunks current conspiracy theories alleging a cover-up by the CDC, and critiques the scientific community's failure to effectively communicate the facts about vaccines and autism to the general public, all while sharing his very personal story of raising a now-adult daughter with autism."
"Now, in 2015, measles, mumps, and whooping cough are all making a comeback. Building on years of research, this updated documentary explores both the roots of the vaccine debate, and the latest chapter in the heated controversy: Are parents who choose not to vaccinate their children putting the health of our nation at risk? This is a compelling and timely report on an issue that remains highly emotional and deeply divisive."
"Dr. Cowan looks at emerging evidence that certain childhood illnesses are actually protective of disease later in life; examines the role of fever, the gut, and cellular fluid in immune health; argues that vaccination is an ineffective (and harmful) attempt to shortcut a complex immune response; and asserts that the medical establishment has engaged in an authoritarian argument that robs parents of informed consent. His ultimate question, from the point of view of a doctor who has decades of experience treating countless children is: What are we really doing to children when we vaccinate them?"
Thanks for reading friends and stay healthy!