This isn’t news: The topic of vaccinations can be polarizing. In fact, it’s one of those things best not brought up at your holiday get-togethers. Your best move is to educate yourself, respect the opinions of others, and leave it at that. But that educating bit? Well, that’s where it can get messy.
I spent seven years obtaining my Doctorate of Pharmacy Degree and I’ll be the first to tell you that I took many courses that have never shown me dividends from the money, time, and headaches spent on them. They were simply hoops to jump through and if you’re familiar with the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule), you’ll know what I mean. A vital few courses have had a profound impact on how I approach my pharmacy practice. One course in particular comes to mind when patients approach me with skepticism around a medication or a vaccine.
Drug Literature Evaluation was a year-long course required in my pharmacy school curriculum and was quite boring at times. However, the core content was extremely important. As pharmacists, we’re trained to literally evaluate drug literature - to pick a clinical trial apart on a microscopic level, to determine what is and what is not a strong study. (I’m sure you’re sensing the bias by now, but hey, I borrowed a lot of money to take that course!)
Let me be clear: I make zero claim to have all the answers. As pharmacists, however, we do have the tools and resources to help you make informed decisions. So when you have concerns around vaccinations, talk to either your pharmacist or your primary healthcare provider. Remember that we live in an age where we can too easily be seduced by a 1:1,000,000 incident self-reported on social media by someone we’ve never seen before and will never see again. Fact checking is not a prerequisite to going viral, after all.
Aside from things like statistical significance and strength of data, I often prefer to simply look at history when considering vaccine hesitation. Our species has been around for a long, long time, but our circumstances have evolved to highly favor us only in recent times. Did you know that just 200 years ago the life expectancy of humans did not exceed 40 years on any continent?! Multiple scientific factors come into play here, but immunizations definitely earned themselves a place on the podium.
We joke about “third world problems” because we know how lucky we really are. Here’s a quick list of some diseases that plagued our ancestors, but we hardly give consideration to today: polio, tetanus, rubella, measles, whooping cough, rotavirus, mumps, chickenpox, diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and smallpox. (Google “smallpox vaccine vs no vaccine”) It’s simple: Our world is better because of the modern miracle of vaccinations, even for those who have never received a vaccination themselves.
With that said, never let someone make you feel inferior for having questions or doubts. Seeking knowledge is a good thing and I’m a firm believer in this: either you’re learning or you’re not. There’s no such thing as a finish line when it comes to this. Choose to learn. Educate yourself. Empower yourself and your family.