National Immunization Awareness Week takes place during the last week of April, from April 23 until 30 each year. You may have heard this one doing the rounds during school days — “Kisses spread germs, and germs are hated. So kiss me baby, I’m vaccinated!” While this is definitely tongue-in-cheek, we do somewhat agree with the author, as vaccination has proven to be one of the most effective ways of keeping sickness at bay and boosting immunity. Immunization seems to be one of the aspects of medical science which has received a lot of flak for various reasons. We’re here to set the record straight and spread the word on the far-ranging benefits of vaccination, and the role immunization plays in protecting and saving millions of lives worldwide.
History of National Immunization Awareness Week
Running in tandem with both Vaccination Week and World Immunization Week, National Immunization Awareness Week is primarily a Canadian initiative taken in an effort to drive public health awareness towards recognizing the importance of immunization. While it is not clear when this week was established, and by which public health authority, the purpose of the week is to highlight the relevance of immunization for people of all ages.
The history of immunization goes as far back as the 1600s. In China, Buddhist monks would suck out the venom from snakebites to render them immune. There was also a practice called variolation, which involved putting a smear of cowpox on a tear in the skin, to help prevent the contraction of smallpox. This latter practice was later adopted in the West, in the form of the first vaccine, developed in 1796, by Edward Jenner. He successfully used the inoculation of cowpox in an eight-year-old boy to show how it made the boy immune to smallpox. What followed, in 1798, was the development of the first-ever smallpox vaccine. Over the next two centuries, widespread use of the smallpox vaccination eventually led to the eradication of the disease in 1979.
During the late 1800s to early 1900s, Louis Pasteur’s experiments also led to the development of vaccines for cholera and anthrax. Between 1890 and 1950, the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (B.C.G.) vaccination also became widespread and is still in use today in immunization schedules for children. The 1920s then saw the development of tetanus and diphtheria vaccines. From 1988 to 2014, the use of the polio vaccine has seen almost the entire world successfully eradicate polio, save for a handful of nations. Such has been the progress in the world of medical science, that vaccinology is now a science dedicated to the study of vaccines.
National Immunization Awareness Week timeline
The practices of monks in China pave the way for medical science in the West to develop methods of immunization.
Thanks to Edward Jenner, the founder of vaccinology in the West, progress is made towards developing the first vaccine.
The first vaccine for smallpox is developed and successfully leads to its eradication almost two centuries later.
Thanks to various litigation issues and a downturn in profitability, the vaccination industry takes a hit, over this decade and the next.
National Immunization Awareness Week FAQs
What are the four types of vaccines?
There are actually more than just four types of vaccines. The most known types are live, attenuated vaccines, inactivated (or killed) vaccines, toxoids, subunit or conjugate vaccines, mRNA vaccines, and viral vector vaccines.
What is the difference between immunization and vaccination?
Vaccination is the literal action of getting the vaccine into one’s system; either through an injection or orally. Immunization, on the other hand, covers the process of receiving the vaccine and developing immunity within the body to the disease the vaccine aims at preventing.
What is the importance of immunization?
Thanks to immunization and vaccinology, the body is able to develop resistance to more than 20 diseases that are potentially fatal. Immunization also increases the longevity of life for people of all ages and prevents a huge number of deaths each year.
How to Observe National Immunization Awareness Week
Contact your healthcare provider
It is (hopefully) never too late to take action and be responsible for your health and well-being. Contact your local healthcare provider and ask them if there are any pending vaccinations or new ones which need to be administered. Organize your own records as well, to stay on top of it. If you have dependents, you can do this for them too.
Get your facts straight
With all information just a click away, it is important to stay savvy and to self-educate. Go to trusted sites to access information about immunization. We recommend some trusted sites like the official National Immunization Awareness Week website, or the ‘History of Vaccines’ website, which was founded by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
Support your local pharmacy
In Canada, and many other countries, pharmacies play a key role in helping with vaccine rollouts. Showing support to local pharmacies in your area can help ensure that they continue to receive supplies of important vaccines, and do not go out of business. It may help just talking to your local pharmacist to get a better understanding of how things work.
5 Common Misconceptions About Vaccines You May Have Believed
Immune system “overload”
Some parents falsely believe that a child’s immune system can get “overloaded” due to multiple vaccinations and, hence, delay them.
The successful eradication of some diseases leads to a false sense of security that vaccines against them are redundant and unnecessary.
Vaccinated people get sick too
Without doing the proper math, people tend to look at some vaccinated people who still get sick and mistakenly conclude that vaccines are ineffective.
Hygiene and nutrition vs. vaccines
While improved hygiene and nutrition do play a part in reducing incidences of some diseases, vaccines have been proven to show the sharpest decline in disease rates.
Natural is best
There are those who think that surviving a disease naturally is better, lasting protection; however, the risks of going through a disease naturally far outweigh the benefits.
Why National Immunization Awareness Week is Important
It’s your child’s best shot”
Yes, the pun is very much intended here. Many parents in developed nations have not lived through or experienced the very real risks of vaccine-preventable diseases like polio or measles. National Immunization Awareness Week brings to the forefront the need to follow immunization schedules for one’s children, to prevent these from ever becoming a reality again.
It creates public health awareness
The very reason public health awareness is so important is that it affects and impacts everyone. No one is superhuman, therefore we are all vulnerable and susceptible to disease, at any point in our lives. Therefore, to read up and educate ourselves on the relevance of immunization is a responsibility we owe to ourselves, and to our near and dear.
Dispels myths around vaccines
With immunization declining in popularity in North America and some parts of Europe, it is important to recognize the reasons for this. Despite having a world of information at our fingertips, many choose to still believe commonly held misconceptions about vaccines and immunization. With this week, there is a change to demystify some of these notions and prove the opposite.
National Immunization Awareness Week dates