By: Lorraine Starsky BSN, RN
National Immunization Awareness Month, observed in August, serves as a crucial reminder of the significance of vaccinations throughout one’s life. The current prevalence of anti-vaccine sentiments underscores the need for health professionals to address these beliefs in an approachable manner.
As a seasoned public health nurse, I frequently engage with underserved communities about immunizations. Reflecting on my childhood, diseases like measles and mumps were common but also potentially perilous. One Monday when I was eight, I arrived at school to see an empty desk when my friend Carol sat. Our third-grade teacher told us that Carol had died from encephalitis from measles. We did not understand what this meant, but were too stunned to ask. The memory of Carol drives my commitment to be a vaccine champion.
The unfortunate deaths of unvaccinated individuals due to preventable diseases, including COVID-19, highlight the necessity of vaccine accessibility and reliable immunization information. Addressing vaccine hesitancy involves open discussions about concerns regarding safety and development. While some apprehensions can be assuaged through dialogue, countering conspiracy theories like vaccines implanting devices or causing sterility pose a challenge.
Concerns extend beyond immediate health impacts, encompassing the potential risks for future generations. Unvaccinated individuals, particularly females, face heightened risks during pregnancy. The fading memory of rubella-induced birth defects underscores the urgency of advocating for immunization. Maintaining a critical immunization rate is essential to safeguard vulnerable populations when herd immunity wanes.
A recommended read for this observance is “A Good Time to be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future” by Perri Klass. This insightful work chronicles the history and progress of vaccines, highlighting their instrumental role in curbing diseases like smallpox, diphtheria, and polio. Klass, a respected pediatrician, masterfully illustrates the evolution of medicine and public health, emphasizing the lifesaving impact of vaccines.
In conclusion, National Immunization Awareness Month accentuates the importance of vaccinations throughout life. Combating vaccine hesitancy requires open conversations, addressing concerns, and emphasizing the enduring benefits of immunization. With the insight of “A Good Time to be Born,” we can celebrate the remarkable contributions of vaccines in reducing illness and mortality, ensuring a healthier future for all.
About the Contributor: Lorraine Starsky BSN, RN is a member of the Allegheny County Immunization Coalition. The Allegheny County Immunization Coalition is Western Pennsylvania’s leading resource for timely, accurate information on vaccines and immunization, and the diseases they prevent. The ACIC is always looking for new members who share our goal of increasing access to and utilization of vaccines across Allegheny County. If you are interested in joining our diverse coalition, please sign up below.
Thanks to the support of various grants, we are pleased to be able to offer membership to the ACIC at no charge. Each year, members will be asked to reconfirm their membership and to update contact information. Learn more at: https://acic10.wildapricot.org/