Vaccination is a very important aspect that contributes to the health of a child. It helps protect them from serious illnesses caused by microorganisms that can be contained. A vaccination normally works by boosting the ability of the individual's immune system to respond to microbial infections by recognizing and fighting them thus reducing the risk of becoming ill (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). It is very important to have a child immunized or vaccinated because it not only protects the child against infectious diseases but also those that the child interacts with. The shots are safe, effective and protect future generations (CDC, 2018). Unfortunately, some parents are often against the idea of vaccination for their children. Therefore, there is a need for increasing the awareness that vaccination has more benefits than demerits. By providing parents with proper incentives and education regarding vaccines, it is possible to eliminate misconceptions and inappropriate philosophies thus improving the administration of vaccination for all children.
Vaccination has improved with time. The first vaccine for smallpox, for example, was created by one Edward Jenner in the 1790s (Stern & Markel, 2005). Since then, issues such as politics and legal aspects, public fears, safety concerns, manufacturing regulations and costs, and funding mechanisms have frequently dominated vaccination policies. Although the vaccinations depend on territorial policies in most cases, some of the common diseases that children are vaccinated against include Hepatitis B, pneumonia, chicken pox, meningitis, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, influenza, human papillomavirus infection, and measles (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).
It is not enough to declare a preventable disease nonexistent. In some cases, the diseases preventable through vaccination have been declared as eliminated, only for them to crop up again. In the year 2000, for instance, the United States public health officials declared that measles had become formally eliminated (Olive et al., 2018). However, there have been recent outbreaks of measles with 137 cases confirmed by September 2018 in various states such as Ohio, Minnesota, and California, District of Columbia, among others (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). The report stated that a majority of those infected were not vaccinated. Therefore, caution, proper legislation, and appropriate policies are likely to prevent the repeat of errors in the elimination of various infectious diseases due to the health consequences involved.
Economic costs have also played a role in policy formulation. Although the production of vaccines has been moved from the government to private entities, the anticipated benefits such as cost reduction and superior quality have not been achieved due to regulatory and financial barriers. In 1998, for instance, Pfizer (Warner-Lambert then) stopped manufacturing the influenza vaccine called Fluogen due to the regulatory barriers and high economic costs (Stern & Markel, 2005). Selling the factory did not improve anything as the company was unable to work under the federal conditions and, consequently, there was a shortage of the flu vaccine in the US in 2004 (Stern & Markel, 2005). A solution had to be sought to prevent such a situation in future.
The assessment of various factors has been crucial in policy development. The stakeholders in the vaccination business include partners such as UNICEF and WHO, healthcare professionals, the US Department of Health and Human Services, pharmaceutical manufacturers, the media and civil society. They have often played a critical role in trying to push for the vaccination of all eligible. However, various issues have led to inequalities in the administration of the vaccines. Although it is expected that all children are immunized, there are exemptions. Exemptions from vaccination are usually granted depending on the legal and political aspects of individual states, medical reasons, as well as individual parent's religion and philosophy (National Vaccine Information Centre, 2018). It is upon the stakeholders to follow up and ensure compliance. However, there have been lapses as the trend of exemptions has been on the rise in twelve states (Olive et al., 2018). This demonstrates that the stakeholders have not yet achieved the desired success.
The investment made in the current setting to improve vaccination is inadequate. The cost of this inadequacy ends up being more than it would have been if more investment had been put in place. Some pharmaceutical companies find it too costly to manufacture vaccines due to regulatory obstacles thus opt out (Stern & Markel, 2005). A good example is the case of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals that was forced to halt the production of flu vaccines due to losses and cumbersome regulations. Although the National Vaccine Advisory Board recommended an increase in funding vaccine stores in 2003, the situation did not change much since currently, only one company manufactures most of the basic childhood vaccines such as measles and chickenpox in the US (Olive et al., 2018). This demonstrates that the current financial incentives need to improve vaccination in the US are inadequate.
Currently, various resources have been put in place by the US government in an effort to improve the coverage of immunization. Apart from the financial incentives, the government has health professionals who utilize the resources provided to administer vaccinations. However, the administration has had to contend with anti-vaccination groups that use social media to spread fear and panic among parents (Olive et al., 2018). They give platforms for sharing information and experiences among parents, some of whom relate autism and SIDs to vaccination (National Vaccine Information Center, 2018). This undermines the efforts of herd immunity that can be achieved through immunization.
While some children are currently exempted from vaccination for medical reasons, others are occasioned by philosophical orientations and religious beliefs (Olive et al., 2018). These values have highly contributed to falling trends in immunization. A recent research showed that the rate of non-medical exemptions from vaccination in the US is on the rise. According to the research, the number of philosophical exemptions, for instance, has gone up in twelve of the eighteen states that permit such kind of exemptions (Olive et al., 2018). Although it is the right of every state to enforce its own laws, this exemptions trend is a cause for alarm. It is worrying because the practice puts many children residing in these states at a very high risk of contracting the diseases that can be prevented through vaccination. Some of these diseases can lead to death or permanent disability of the child.
The legislation is a significant element of policy formulation. The government has public health officials in place who administer vaccinations, give information to parents and advise the government on outbreak measures. Apart from the exemptions, it is currently mandatory for all children attending public schools to be vaccinated. This is commendable since the provisions are practical and systematic. However, some of these provisions are more reactive than preventive. The outbreak measures, for instance, dictate that in case of an outbreak, unvaccinated pupils stay away from school (Olive et al., 2018). This procedure ignores the value of preventing the diseases thus does not address the issue.
Goals and Solutions
The main goal of this policy is to increase awareness among mothers and potential parents on the merits of vaccinating their children. With objective information, it will be possible to dismiss the unfounded beliefs and myths surrounding the practice of vaccination, most of which are spread by anti-vaccination groups on social media. It will then be possible to cut down on the spread of infectious diseases that can be prevented through vaccination. With these goals, the concerned agencies will highly be likely to achieve a wider vaccination coverage thus reducing cases of these preventable diseases. In the process, the healthcare and economic costs associated with investigations, illness, and disability will be reduced considerably.
One of the solutions to the problem of vaccination gaps includes the mandatory education for mothers who wish to have their children exempted on non-medical grounds. The parents should undergo a compulsory class on immunization so that they make an informed choice. Second, all persons of childbearing age should be taken through classes on the importance of vaccination. This will make them aware that vaccination is a preventive step that is safe and better than a reactive measure. Thirdly, the government should provide tax incentives for mothers or guardians who prove that their children have been fully immunized if they are not on medical exemptions. This will increase the number of those immunized thus reducing the spread of preventable diseases.
In conclusion, it is clear that proper teaching for mothers and the implementation of the appropriate policies are required to improve the rates of vaccination in the US. With the increasing trend in exemptions and nonvaccination, strategic factors such as stakeholders, economic costs, resources, power, and values need to be assessed and incorporated in the process of policy-making. The main goal of this policy analysis is to improve knowledge and awareness thus reducing cases of the outbreak of preventable diseases. The solution lies in incentives and mandatory education for parents. Therefore, it is highly recommended that parents and potential parents are provided with incentives and objective information on vaccination.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2018). Measles cases and outbreaks. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2018). For parents: vaccines for your children. Retrieved October 19, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html
National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). (2018). In FAQs about infant Hepatitis B vaccine; refusal coercion & child abuse/neglect. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://www.nvic.org/faqs/infant-hepatitis-b.aspx
Olive, J. K., Hotez, P. J., Damania, A., & Nolan, M. S. (2018). The state of the antivaccine movement in the United States: A focused examination of nonmedical exemptions in states and counties. PLoS medicine, 15(6), e1002578. Retrieved October 17, 2018, from https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002578
Stern, A. M., & Markel, H. (2005). The history of vaccines and immunization: familiar patterns, new challenges. Health Affairs, 24(3), 611-621. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.24.3.611
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