Updated: Oct 15, 2021
This past week, the last week of April, marked World Immunization Week, an annual campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO) geared towards helping spread awareness about the importance of vaccines, promoting their usage, and sharing advances in vaccine technology. Vaccines have been vital to human development and livelihood for centuries, with scientists constantly researching, developing, testing, and distributing them to fight off deadly new and old diseases.
The first vaccine was tested and created by Edward Jenner in order to counteract the smallpox disease in 1796. Although it was not as professionally and safely crafted as vaccines are currently, Jenner was able to apply a scientific approach to confirm that the vaccine he had created worked. Jenner did this by performing arm-to-arm inoculation, taking the material from a blister on someone’s skin infected from cowpox and injecting it into another person. Since then, the process of making vaccines has been refined and their usage has provided safety from dozens of diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitis B.
Today, the COVID-19 vaccine adds to that list. The COVID-19 vaccine has now been distributed to 200 million people and is available to people as young as 16 years old. This vaccine gives people a glinting hope to the end of this pandemic. For over a year now, COVID-19 has caused the loss of being able to spend time with friends, travel, participate in everyday activities, celebrate birthdays, and attend school. As per UNICEF, “The COVID-19 pandemic is a devastating reminder of the chaos caused by diseases we cannot prevent. Thanks to vaccines, we now have a way of ending this pandemic and to rebuild our lives. But we’re not settling for a return to normal, as normal was never good enough for millions of children around the world. No child should die from preventable diseases and we won’t stop until that’s a reality.”
2021’s World Immunization Week theme is “Vaccines bring us closer.” The WHO is focusing on “reframing the global vaccine conversation to focus on the importance of vaccines.” In light of recent discussions of the COVID-19 vaccine, WHO is aiming to remind others of the good vaccines have brought in the past and will in the future. Moreover, WHO plans to “highlight the many ways in which vaccines enable us to live healthy, productive lives by preventing the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, and demonstrate social proof that the broader public already values and trust vaccines.” Specifically, WHO mentions how as vaccine technology continues to develop, vaccines “bring us closer to a world free from the likes of tuberculosis and cervical cancer, and end suffering from childhood diseases like tetanus and measles.”
The importance of this year’s World Immunization Week is to “build solidarity and trust in vaccination as a public good that saves lives and protects health.” This year, UNICEF is showing their support of World Immunization Week and of vaccines by launching a global initiative encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated and raise money toward the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The head of the campaign, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham, and UNICEF hope to “urge greater engagement around immunization globally to promote the importance of vaccination in bringing people together, and improving the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere, throughout life.”
As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be distributed and new vaccines are developed to combat diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks citizens to use World Immunization Week to “thank frontline and essential workers, partners, parents and caregivers, governments, private sector, charitable organization and every person, family and community working to ensure that vaccines bring us closer to CDC’s vision of a world in which everyone, everywhere is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, disabilities, and death.”
Through Teen Lenses: Have you received the COVID-19 vaccine? If you have, how do you feel about it’s distribution and do you encourage others to take the vaccine as well? If you have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine, why not? What is your standpoint on vaccines?
“I have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine yet. The reason being that I am not old enough to get vaccinated. However, when I am of age, I plan to get vaccinated because it is beneficial for me and keeps those around me safe as well.” Murphy Cooper, 14, Freshman at Park View High School, Virginia
“I just recently got my COVID vaccine. I feel that the mass distribution going on right now is the best solution possible to this current pandemic. It has been more than a year and normality is needed. So, I do encourage others to this vaccine if possible. Many believe that the vaccine was rushed but I am totally against that viewpoint. In more modern times, it would be unusual for the vaccine to have a long period of development. Scientists have adapted to new techniques and technology and have learned from their past mistakes. Thus, getting the vaccine would speed the return of normalcy. Vipula Thoppae, 17, Junior at Urbana High School, Maryland
“I haven’t taken the vaccine because I am too young. I do believe that vaccines are incredibly important for public health. However, I do not think vaccines completely eliminate the virus. On the other hand, they make everything safer and people feel safer.” Caoume Valle, 14, Freshman at Park View High School, Virginia