National Immunization Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

The month of August is deemed National Immunization Month (NIAM), aiming to highlight the critical action of making sure that people of all ages, social classes, and cultural affiliations are vaccinated. With vaccination awareness aimed at a different age group each week, advocators all over the globe take advantage of this month to raise awareness of the hazardous effects these vaccine-treatable diseases can have on the community. But just because August is ending doesn’t mean one should not learn more about the concept of immunizations and what they mean to the Egyptian community.

Vaccinations are considered a standard and necessary practice for a healthy life, and have become a much discussed topic amongst parents, doctors, and academics in recent times. However, many are not aware of how vaccines work. In getting a vaccine, one takes an extremely weakened version of a particular illness into their body so that the immune system can successfully fight it without a chance of fatality, and thus build ‘immunity’ towards that illness in the future.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NCBI), and UNICEF are leading health organizations that have lent a great hand in spreading the concept of immunization. This helping hand is necessary because the authority of such groups helps inform patients of the benefits of immunization.

“Patients are typically compliant, due to the fact that a large quantity of the country is illiterate and therefore do not question medical personnel. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s the truth,” says Dr. Amr Abdelfattah, Head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology in the Police Hospital of Egypt.

Those with regular access to hospitals and hygienic resources may presume that vaccination is not a prevailing concern in our world; however, according to UNICEF, one in every five infants was denied vaccinations in 2015, which surmounts to a whopping 19.4 million children worldwide. The vast majority of these infants are denied vaccination due to the lack of medical centers in their communities, but thanks to the the philanthropic efforts and awareness campaigns of these organizations and pharmaceutical companies, it is ensured that this number can be brought down.

Dr. F Hussein confirmed that this has also applied to Egypt throughout past years. “People are aware of the benefits and take the time to get themselves and their children vaccinated due to the increase of successful medical programs after the 1952 revolution,” she states.

UNICEF supplied nearly two billion dollars worth of immunizations in 2016, with the vast majority of these vaccinations directed towards mothers and newborns in impoverished areas. Taking into consideration that Egypt is a developing nation with a 25.9 percent illiterate population, it is natural to wonder how immunizations are carried out in impoverished areas in the country. Surprisingly, Dr. Abdelfattah noted that, “As many hardships as the poor may have, vaccinations are free in Egypt, which is not common in most countries, be they Western or Eastern.”

However, distributing vaccines is not as simple as the numbers make it seem. There are differences between vaccines in developed and developing countries. In developed countries, the most common vaccinations include those for polio, measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), Hepatitis B, and Varicella (chicken pox). Developing countries, on the other hand, most commonly administer vaccinations related to Dengue, Cholera, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. In Egypt, there is little to no difference when it comes to vaccinations and social class. “People in impoverished areas and in urbanized areas in Egypt are similar in terms of immunization benefits due to the media’s attentive awareness and the fact that immunization is free,” says Dr. Hussein.

Moreover, medicare is quite costly; the quantity of vaccinations one may receive will surely reach double digits. The emergence of a new vaccine in a developing country brings about plenty of challenges, but finances remain the leading one. Medical companies must cope with the struggle of unpredictable funding as an effect of the country’s economic status, all the while promoting what is known as “vaccine security.” This is achieved by ensuring that manufacturers in developing countries are producing vaccines that are certified by pharmaceutical companies. Safe injection is also a must, ensuring that all vaccines are administered by auto-disable syringes, where the safety plunger is broken off after use, or using a single-dose vial.

Vaccines, just as any other medical practice, were an incredible historical breakthrough. The practices of immunization can be traced back to 17th century China. However, Edward Jenner is commonly spoken of as the father of immunization in the West, creating the smallpox vaccine in the 18th century. Scientists and citizens alike are dumbfounded by how vaccinations have altered universal health care; in 1988, the near-entirety of four continents suffered from polio in comparison to only two countries in 2014.

Immunizations are a priority in the global health of tomorrow, and people worldwide are encouraged to collectively take a stand and raise awareness of its importance. Regardless of one’s location or social class, immunizations are key to a happy, healthy future.

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