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The United States Immunization Policy


Immunization policy refers to the public health policy that the government has adopted about immunization. In 1774, a Dorset farmer tried the first vaccine when he inoculated cowpox to his family in protection against smallpox. However, vaccination was first used in medical practice during the year 1796 by Edward Jenner. Two hundred years later, the World Health Organization reported the global smallpox eradication resulting from a vaccination program in the world. The policy is without a doubt the most cost-effective measure in public health that has helped protect the public against deadly infectious diseases. All children are at risk of developing diseases that could otherwise be prevented by immunization using safe and effective vaccines. The vaccination policy was implemented in the early 20th century in the US. This was after the Supreme Court ruling that favored vaccination among the citizens. Children are required to enter school having received all the common vaccinations (Abraham & Pickering, 2008a).

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This policy together with improved sanitation has led to an increase in life expectancy by 30 years among citizens in the US. By the end of the 20th century, 90% of all children under 2 years had received all the recommended vaccines making this strategy a major achievement in public health in the 20th century. However, despite these successes, these efforts of massive vaccination have been faced with obstacles. The policy has faced resistance from certain groups based on religious, political, ethnic, medical safety, and other grounds (Abraham & Pickering 2008b). Vaccination has both positive and negative implications on both the public and the health industry.

Positive Implications

A majority of citizens seem to have accepted the role that continued childhood immunization plays in the prevention of infectious diseases. The biggest success of vaccination in the United States is the elimination of 2 of the most devastating diseases in children, polio, and smallpox. There has also been a reduction in other diseases that pose a serious threat including tetanus, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, rubella, mumps, and invasive Haemophilus influenza type b. This has been reduced by about 95% based on the annual morbidity of the 20th century. The past decade has seen the introduction of 4 additional vaccines into the immunization program leading to a considerable reduction in the potential for developing these diseases (Abraham & Pickering, 2008b).

The vaccine against hepatitis B has succeeded in protecting a common cause of diseases of the liver and liver cancer. This makes it the first vaccine that has been effective in cancer prevention. The Varicella vaccine has managed to prevent dangerous complications that are associated with chickenpox. This includes the disease caused by secondary invasive group A streptococcal bacteria. The pneumococcal vaccine has helped to protect children from serious infections caused by common bacteria including bacteremia, pneumonia, and meningitis. The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for certain populations. This vaccine offers protection against illness as a result of the Hepatitis A virus and prevents the spread of the virus responsible for this infection. There is a likelihood of adding two more vaccines to protect against infections of the influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus in the immunization program for children. These two diseases of the respiratory tract are a common cause of children’s hospitalization in modern days. The meningococcal disease vaccination is also likely to be introduced into the childhood vaccination program.

The health care industry has also benefited a great deal from the immunization program. The program has been one of the most cost-effective policies that have been implemented. This has saved the industry above $5 for each dollar used on the majority of the vaccines meant for children in America (Kim, 2011). The benefits of higher rates of immunizations cannot be overstated. In this case, the repercussions of lower rates of immunization include a significant hospitalization increase and an increase in deaths due to illnesses that could be prevented by vaccination. This will lead to congestion in hospitals increasing the hospital’s workload. In this case, considerable funds will be directed to solve these issues in terms of staff and equipment instead of using the funds in taking care of other issues of public health concern. The Hib disease and measles are examples of diseases that continue to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality. However, these two diseases have been eliminated from the US following the immunization program for children.

Negative Implications

All the modalities used in preventive and therapeutic care in medicine have side effects thus vaccines are no exception. The policy has faced resistance from certain groups based on religious, political, ethnic, medical safety, and other grounds. However, the public should not fear as the vaccines go through serious safety testing and are monitored continuously for safety by the FDA. All the components are tested to be safe and studied so that they can work together. The two are meant to aid in the building of the child’s immune system. This only means that side effects as a result of vaccines are very minor and disappear in a few days (Abraham & Pickering, 2008b).

The side effects vary depending on the vaccine and may include fever, mild rash, nausea, fatigue, itching at the site of injection, dizziness, as well as redness, pain, or swelling at the site of injection. The health industry has also been affected negatively as a result of the immunization policy and has faced various challenges including accusations concerning adverse side effects that are unsupported by the available scientific data, increasing vaccine costs, vaccine supply fragility, and the increase in the number of recommended vaccines for use. The industry is also facing the public’s concern about the alleged association of the MMR vaccine and Autism. There are also concerns about many disorders such as seizures, autism, sudden infant death syndrome, and other diseases that manifest during a child’s first two years of life when children are administered with as many as 20 vaccine doses (Plotkin, Orenstein & Offit 2008).

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The public in the United States needs to understand that their concerns about the adverse side effects as a result of vaccines are shared by the health care industry. In addition, investigations are done when appropriate. Educational and other strategies need to be introduced to promote public awareness and enhance progress in the United States Immunization Program. The immunization policy program has been a success story in the US. In this case, it has led to the reduction in mortality and morbidity as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases. However, despite these improvements, there still exists room for improvement to maximize disease protection and minimize potential and actual risks. Solving these issues is very important in ensuring that children have the best opportunity in developing a life that is healthy and reproductive.


Abraham, J.S. & Pickering, L.K. (2008a). The value of vaccination. World Economics, 8(4), 16-23.

Abraham, J.S. & Pickering, L.K. (2008b). US Immunization Policy. American Medical Association, 288(4), 505-508.

Kim, J.J. (2011). The Role of Cost-Effectiveness in U.S. Vaccination Policy. The New England Journal of Medicine.12 (2), 3-7.

Plotkin, S. A., Orenstein, W. A., & Offit, P. A. (2008). Vaccines. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders/Elsevier.

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