August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). This time of year, people are encouraged to spread the word on the importance of immunization in combating diseases, including tetanus and hepatitis. But why should you care?
The World Health Organization estimates that immunization saves between 2 million and 3 million lives every year. Countless lives can be saved with proper vaccination, and it all starts with letting people know that vaccines exist.
Whether you wear silicone wristbands or post on social media, there is always something you can do to support this cause. You’ll find a few ways below, as well as some information on immunization and its history of saving lives.
Immunization and How It Works
Our bodies are equipped with an immune system that is able to respond to infection. However, it takes time doing its job during the first exposure to certain bacteria and viruses. That is the reason we get sick from infection, and this is where immunization comes into the picture.
According to the World Health Organization: “Immunization is the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine.”
Medical professionals can administer a vaccine containing germs so that the body develops a “memory” of these germs, enabling the immune system to counter the disease when the body is exposed to it in the future. It is essentially teaching the immune system about a germ so that it would know how to fight that germ when the time comes. Vaccines typically contain weakened versions or small portions of germs that allows your body’s immune system to adapt to that particular type of infection.
History of Immunization, Vaccination
While vaccination may be a product of the 1800s, immunization has been practiced by other cultures prior. Buddhist monks were known to drink snake venom to gain immunity against snake bites. It was, however, in 1796 that a boy with cowpox was inoculated. Two years later, the smallpox vaccine was created. Over a century later, Alexander Glenny managed to create a vaccine against the tetanus toxin. Three years later, a vaccine against diphtheria was made.
In more recent times, polio has been eradicated in many regions across the world as of 2014 thanks to the vaccine against it.
Raise Awareness on immunization
Needless to say, immunization has done a great deal in preventing millions of deaths. You can do your part by letting people know that certain vaccines exist to fight certain diseases. In support of the NIAM, you can:
- Share Information via Social Networks – Perhaps the easiest way to chip in is by sharing valuable information on your social media accounts. You’ll never know, a simple tweet might just save a life. You can follow local government and health organizations to get more information that you can share with your friends and family.
- Organize Events at School or Work – The NIAM is sponsored by the National Public Health Information Coalition. It is supported by the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, a group within the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can head to these groups’ websites if you want to get the official communications toolkit. You can use it to set up events in your area.
- Wear and Distribute Awareness Giveaways – The official NIAM toolkit contains logos and other material you can use to create awareness giveaways. The most popular item perhaps is the silicone wristband, which is an affordable and easy way to raise awareness. The wristband has been used in popular health-related movements, such as the campaigns against HPV and breast cancer, among others.
These are the simplest ways to get involved. Of course, you can also sign petitions, ask for media coverage of events, run newspaper ads, etc. But if you want to get started ASAP with minimal effort required, getting and wearing wristbands is the way to go.