World Health Day is an annual celebration of the importance of public health that also raises awareness of global health issues. Over the past year we've been reminded of one of the most important public health programs available, vaccinations. A focused, well-supported immunization program is a necessary element of any nation's health care system and one of the most important steps you can take in order to live a healthy life. Below are 5 reasons why you should get your children immunized according to the guidelines and schedule set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and supported by medical professionals.
1. Immunization reduces and eliminates diseases
The history of the United States is marked by outbreaks of many diseases that are now extremely rare due to the development of vaccines. Diseases that once infected tens of thousands of people per year now may only have yearly cases in the single digits. It's difficult sometimes to appreciate the scope of that -- diseases that once terrified parents for decades are functionally gone from public life. Vaccines have saved more lives than any other forms of medical intervention, including surgery and antibiotics.
2. Diseases return when vaccinations stop
Many once-common diseases are increasingly rare due to immunization, but if a disease hasn't been eradicated completely, it's still a potential threat. There have been a number of examples in recent history in which a population became lax about vaccinating, causing a disease to return. Last years, measles cases were the highest in the United States since the disease was considered to be eliminated here in 2000, and these largely occurred in communities that were subject to misinformation about the safety of vaccines.
3. Diseases haven't disappeared
Although many diseases are largely gone from the United States due to years of focused immunization, other countries may have higher rates of vaccine-preventable diseases. As the COVID-19 pandemic as reminded us, a globalized world with regular international travel creates easier spread for diseases. The more effort and funding we devote to our ongoing immunization programs, the more protected we are from outbreaks of diseases in nations that don't have the same level of medical resources. Vaccinations are what prevent clusters of imported cases from becoming outbreaks.
4. Preventive care lowers medical costs
75 percent of our healthcare spending is on chronic diseases that are avoidable through preventive care. The associated costs of these chronic diseases lowers the United States' economic output by $260 billion yearly. Vaccinations are usually covered by insurance, or in some cases, federal funding through programs like the CDC's Vaccines for Children.
5. Immunization helps us protect each other and our future
Large numbers of people receiving immunizations prevent the spread of diseases to those who can't receive vaccinations. In reducing the rate of infectious diseases, immunization lowers the need for antibiotics, which also slows the antibiotic resistance that's becoming a significant problem in health care. Widespread immunization reduces poverty and health disparities in both developing and developed nations. And continued, focused immunization efforts can potentially eradicate diseases over time, meaning that countless lives over generations could be saved by the elimination of numerous diseases.