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How Vaccine Refusal Influences the Health of the U.S. Population Essay

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2021

Introduction to the Problem

Problem to be addressed

Vaccination is a life-saving procedure that prevents long-term health consequences of infectious diseases. Despite the proven efficiency of vaccines against such severe illnesses as measles or mumps, part of the world population refuses or delays immunization. It has caused a measles outbreak in New York and an increased number of measles cases in Europe. According to WHO, vaccine hesitancy has become one of the major threats to global health (Altman, 2019).

Problem subtopic

Although low immunization is characteristic of developing countries, now it is becoming prevalent among U.S. and European citizens. However, if in low-income countries, people may have problems with access to vaccines, some U.S. residents refuse this procedure voluntarily. Generally, if there are enough vaccinated people in the community, it leads to the development of herd immunity that prevents outbreaks of diseases.

Due to vaccine refusal, the number of vaccinated people in the U.S. has decreased, and by the summer of 2019, there had been over a thousand cases of measles reported. This illness has been considered eliminated in America since 2000, but people seem to have revived it by rejecting immunization. If the situation does not change for the better, the world will see more outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases (Children’s Defense Fund, 2019).

Possible Causes and Maintaining Forces

Cause

One reason for vaccine hesitancy is the shift from the fear of diseases to the fear of vaccination. Generally, before a vaccine is invented, people suffer from an illness and observe its consequences. After a preventive preparation is introduced, disease rates decrease, and individuals start to forget its effects. Against a background of a declining illness, adverse effects of vaccination become more prominent, and people switch their attention from the gained benefits of the vaccine to its rare side effects.

This has happened in the U.S. and other developed countries. After such diseases as measles ceased to trouble people, they stopped considering them a real threat. At the same time, the news about possible negative consequences of vaccination became widespread and influenced individuals’ attitudes toward immunization (Omer, Amin, & Limaye, 2017).

Cause

Another reason for vaccine refusal is misinformation and distrust of medicine. The public opposes immunization because of faulty beliefs in vaccine toxicity, its harm to the immune system, and the existence of “Big Pharma” that infects children intentionally to gain profits from selling medications. The spread of misleading arguments has been promoted by physicians, such as Andrew Wakefield and Robert Sears, as well as celebrities, activists, and bloggers. These thought influencers base their assertions on the information from the Internet, without bothering to search for scientific proof or consult experienced healthcare professionals (Smith, 2017).

Why the problem persists

The continuing dissemination of erroneous information about vaccination maintains the rate of people refusing or delaying immunization. Much misinformation is placed on the Internet and in social media, where anyone has the opportunity of publishing whatever they want. Therefore, websites and forums are continuously refilled with the information that vaccines cause diseases and are ineffective or that vaccination is a political or medical conspiracy. Since around 80% of people look for health information on the Internet, these misleading assumptions keep confusing individuals and prevent medical professionals from overcoming vaccine hesitancy in patients (Smith, 2017).

Why the problem persists, a lack of sound judgment also hinders individuals from objectively evaluating information that they see on websites or hear from other people. As a rule, people use mental shortcuts when they have to make on-the-spot decisions. These mental shortcuts are formed based on the information that a person encounters frequently. Since there is much misinformation about vaccination available on the Internet, it affects people’s decisions when they are asked to undergo immunization during a regular visit to a doctor. The situation could be different if individuals took time and effort to research scientific proofs of vaccination benefits and their potential harm (Omer et al., 2017).

Background and Justification

Prior attempts and previously proposed solutions

The problem of vaccine refusal was addressed at the government level. Each of 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have adopted the legislation that obliges children of school-age and those attending child-care facilities to undergo immunization. Throughout the U.S., it is also permitted not to vaccinate children for medical reasons, such as the weakened immune system or intolerance to the components of a vaccine. The CDC has listed all possible conditions that serve as a reason for medical exemptions (Children’s Defense Fund, 2019).

Deficiencies in the solution paradigm

The adopted legislation has one significant drawback: it allows for exemptions based on religious, philosophical, or personal beliefs. Only in California, West Virginia, Mississippi, New York, and Maine are children not allowed to be excused from vaccination due to their parent’s religious beliefs. In sixteen states, parents are permitted not to vaccinate their children if it disagrees with their personal opinions not related to religion. Furthermore, officially established medical exemptions are often not followed. Although there is a list of conditions under which vaccines should not be administrated, physicians frequently exempt children from immunization for medical reasons that do not serve as contraindications to vaccines. (Children’s Defense Fund, 2019).

Newly Proposed Deliverable

Deliverable overview

My proposal is a series of posters devoted to vaccine-preventable diseases. However, my posters will not be just pictures; I am planning to make them both appealing and informative. The main feature of this deliverable will be photos of people who contracted an illness that is normally prevented by vaccines. The purpose of this work will be to familiarize individuals with the potential consequences of vaccine refusal.

Significance to the student

When people refuse or postpone immunization, they risk not only their health and lives but also that of other community members. The more individuals refuse immunization, the weaker herd immunity becomes, and the more outbreaks of severe diseases happen. I want to live in a healthy world where people do not die from preventable illnesses. I also want my future children to be born into a safe environment where schools are not under quarantine because of numerous unvaccinated students. Therefore, I aim at preventing the aggravation of threats to global health-related vaccine refusal.

Target audience

My project will be targeted at parents, especially mothers since they are responsible for getting their children vaccinated. It makes sense to appeal not only to those who refuse vaccines but also to those who agree with the necessity of immunization. In this case, proponents of vaccination may be encouraged to share their attitudes with other parents. Thus, they would serve as an additional force that could help healthcare professionals to persuade hesitant parents of the need for immunization.

External dissemination platform

Posters should be placed in children’s healthcare facilities in rooms where they can attract the attention of the target audience. For example, a suitable place for them would be the office of a physician who receives pediatric patients accompanied by their parents. Perhaps, digital copies of posters could be disseminated via social media, such as Facebook or Twitter.

It proposed length and justification

I am planning to make two posters related to several vaccine-preventable diseases. I will inform the public about such illnesses as measles, mumps, poliomyelitis, rubella, hepatitis B, and diphtheria. Photos and short descriptions of symptoms and potential complications will accompany each disease. Probably, the description of each illness will take about one page. At the bottom of the posters, there will be a call to action. Such a format is justified because it will familiarize people with health problems that can occur in case of vaccine refusal.

Supplemental material

For the project, I will use photos of patients with the mentioned illnesses. I will also conduct research to identify the symptoms and complications of these diseases.

Evaluation

The goal of the new deliverable

The goal of this deliverable is to inform the target audience that unless they get their children vaccinated, they risk confronting the mentioned diseases.

Success outcome measures

The project will be considered successful if posters manage to attract the attention of the target audience, and at least some of them change their mind in favor of vaccination.

Enhancement of global awareness

Nowadays, such organizations as WHO, the CDC, and the UN Foundation, are highly concerned about vaccine hesitancy. They aim at increasing the global awareness of the problem and providing more people with access to vaccines. The proposed deliverable can help to achieve this goal by informing individuals about the necessity of vaccination and persuading them to protect their health and that of their children with vaccines (Altman, 2019).

Enhancement of global perspective-taking

WHO defines vaccine hesitancy as one of the obstacles to global immunization coverage. It connects this problem with continuous misinformation that is spread through social media. The proposed project can contribute to addressing this problem by testing a new way of delivering information about vaccines. I hope that the knowledge about diseases will encourage people to take care of their health and distrust the anti-vaccine information spread by social media (Branigan, 2019).

References

Altman, M. J. (2019). Web.

Branigan, D. (2019). . Web.

Children’s Defense Fund. (2019). . Web.

Omer, S. B., Amin, A. B., & Limaye, R. J. (2017). Communicating about vaccines in a fact-resistant world. JAMA Pediatrics, 171(10), 929-930.

Smith, T. C. (2017). Vaccine rejection and hesitancy: A review and call to action. Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 4(3), 1-7.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'How Vaccine Refusal Influences the Health of the U.S. Population'. 23 June.

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