Health Education

Why Immunizations Are More Important Than You Think

Cropped SingleCare logo By | March 29, 2016

Traveling to different parts of the world requires careful consideration of the regionally-specific health dangers one might encounter. As World Immunization Week approaches, it is important for travelers to be aware of these dangers and to be properly immunized to avoid bringing exotic diseases back home.

World Immunization Week starts April 24th. While developed countries may take immunizations and vaccines for granted as a part of routine healthcare, this isn’t the case in many countries around the world. This means that even in places like the United States, people aren’t free from disease once considered near impossible to contract.

The U.S. has seen a recent resurgence of avoidable diseases, including measles and Hepatitis A, directly attributable to a lack of immunizations among international travelers and the anti-vaccination movement. Far from innocuous, these diseases often present most severely in adults, and afflicted travelers risk spreading the disease to their families, friends, and communities.

Travel and the Undervaccinated World

According to a Harvard study as reported by LiveScience, roughly 18% of Americans who visited travel clinics between 2009 and 2014 were not up-to-date on their measles vaccines, and were advised to get one — and 50% of those people didn’t follow through and receive the necessary treatment. The study found that one of the most common reasons that travelers opted out of vaccination was they there weren’t concerned about illness.

Unimmunized travelers are thought to have caused at a majority of the nearly 900 American measles cases since 2014, despite the fact that measles was officially eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, according to the CDC. In other countries, the disease is still prevalent, and there are 20 million worldwide cases annually.

Similarly, over two dozen Americans became infected with Hepatitis A after visiting Tulum, Mexico last year, and brought the virus back to 12 U.S. states. The CDC’s Dr. Monique Aaron-Foster explained to LiveScience that, had the tourists been properly immunized, the outbreak could “probably have been avoided.”

Vaccinations Are Only Positive

Still, vaccinations have had to contend with many public misconceptions, including the thoroughly disproven (at CDC and WHO) yet widely circulated theories that vaccinations can lead to inadvertent viral infection, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and autism. To emphasize the safety of vaccinations, these false ideas have been conclusively debunked through exhaustive international research.

In fact, according to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, vaccines are estimated to return an average $44 for every dollar spent on their research and delivery. The return comes from the longer and healthier lives people worldwide are able to live without the eradicated diseases, causing enormously positive socio-economic impacts.

National Geographic, citing research from the Review on AMR, posits that vaccines also present a critical defense against the increasing rates of antimicrobial resistance among deadly bacteria. They argue that a better use of vaccines, among other things, will help to decrease our reliance on antibiotics.

It’s these studies that highlight the importance of staying up to date on vaccinations as well as the importance of worldwide vaccination programs. The WHO is currently making great strides in vaccinations around the world. Thanks to vaccinations, Africa hasn’t had a case of wild polio since 2014, and India has been declared free of maternal and neonatal tetanus.

Even though the United States has relatively low instances of certain viral infections, other countries are still battling against them.The CDC recommends visiting with a doctor to find out about vaccination requirements 4-6 weeks prior to any international travel, as well as checking to see if you’re up-to-date on regular vaccinations.

It also provides a complete list of vaccination recommendations and travel advisories by country. So before you or your loved ones take off for an exotic locale, be sure to get into the doctor’s office first. Avoid breaking the bank before the trip by becoming a SingleCare member, so you can pay reduced fees for various medical services and use those savings for your adventure.

(Main image credit: Stephi/Thinkstock)