Dr. Marcos Ramos Benitez: “Besides drinking water, vaccination is the most life-saving thing”

In 1796, Dr. Edward Jenner invented a vaccine against smallpox, one of the deadliest infectious diseases. In 1980, the World Health Organization announced that naturally occurring smallpox had been eliminated globally due to vaccination.

Something similar happened with poliomyelitis, or poliomyelitis. In 1952, the United States experienced its worst polio epidemic. The first polio vaccine was licensed in 1955. In 1994, the disease was declared eliminated in North and South America.

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this means the disease will not continue to spread for more than twelve months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in a 2020 update that “the United States has maintained measles elimination status for nearly 20 years.”

Last few years, The public health agency warned that measles outbreaks in the United States are primarily caused by travelers who contract measles abroad and unvaccinated people. “The United States may lose measles elimination status if a measles epidemic continues for a year or longer,” the CDC said. The measles vaccine was approved in 1963.

“Vaccines are training the immune system; they teach you how to protect yourself,” said Dr. Marcos Ramos Benitez, a scientist who specializes in molecular and cellular biology, virology and immunology.

He said that while there may be occasional outbreaks or isolated cases of eradicated infectious diseases — such as a confirmed case of paralytic polio in an unvaccinated adult in New York in 2022 — the scale is not the same as in the pre-vaccination era. There is no comparison.

Types of vaccines and some examples include:

  • Inactivated vaccine (for hepatitis A) – an inactivated version of the pathogen. They are also called “inactivated vaccines.”
  • Live Attenuated Vaccine (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella/MMR Vaccine) – A weakened or attenuated version of a pathogen.
  • Subunit vaccines (against pertussis and human papillomavirus) – use specific parts of the pathogen as its protein.
  • Messenger RNA Vaccine (COVID-19) – mRNA is the genetic material that instructs the body on how to make proteins. When exposed to a pathogen, the body recognizes it and knows how to fight it.
  • Viral vector vaccines (for COVID-19) – They use harmless (harmless) versions of different viruses, called vectors, to transfer information to the body to help it protect itself.

Regarding the benefits of vaccines, the founder and president of the non-profit organization Ciencia en tus manos insists that they can be divided into individual and collective ones. “Your body learns how to defend itself against certain pathogens,” he emphasizes.

It can take several weeks for immunity to develop after vaccination, so it is possible to become infected during or after this time. However, vaccinated people have a lower risk of death and severe disease than unvaccinated people.

On the other hand, vaccines may not work for some people, such as people with weakened immune systems, for various reasons. “These people can be protected by herd immunity. If there are many vaccinated people, the virus cannot spread, thus protecting unvaccinated people.” The interviewee explained the collective impact of vaccination.

“All vaccines have potential risks,” he noted. For example, some people may have allergic reactions to certain components of the vaccine. “What is measured in clinical trials is that the benefits outweigh the risks,” he said.

Generally speaking, The process of vaccine development includes: research and discovery, proof of concept, vaccine testing, manufacturing process, approval, recommendations for use, and post-approval safety monitoring, according to the CDC. The fact sheet for each vaccine details its contraindications.

When asked about misinformation and myths about vaccines, Dr. Ramos Benitez emphasized the importance of vaccination as a public health tool that has been proven to be effective. He advised people: “They should ask questions, understand how (vaccines) work, be open to information and make informed decisions.”

Live attenuated vaccines such as chickenpox are not recommended during pregnancy. The CDC recommends this vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, and influenza during pregnancy. It’s important, before getting vaccinated, to talk to your doctor about the specifics of vaccinations you should receive before, during, and after pregnancy.

“There is growing evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective when given during pregnancy,” the CDC said in an October 2022 update. Research on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and their effectiveness in pregnant women Still going on.

Likewise, it is important for parents and caregivers of infants and children to complete a vaccination schedule to minimize their risk of contracting vaccination-preventable diseases. VOCES, the immunization alliance and health promotion, said that in addition to vaccines suitable for children and adolescents, adults are also recommended to be vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, influenza and human papillomavirus.

Currently, VOCES is carrying out activities “Verbal strong” Raise awareness about oropharyngeal cancer and human papillomavirus vaccination.

“Vaccination is a process from birth to life,” said Lilliam Rodríguez Capó, founder and principal officer of VOCES. “Vaccination rates among children and adolescents are high thanks to public health strategies. Puerto Rico has a good vaccination culture among pediatric and adolescent groups,” he added.

As for young people, Rodríguez Capó commented:While vaccination levels are not “sky-high,” the federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 expands access by requiring state Medicaid programs to cover and pay for all recommended adult vaccines without cost-sharing.

According to the interviewees, ASES regulatory letter 23-0117, dated January 2023, was disclosed under this law. It stipulates that coordinating management organizations contracted to manage health services under the government health program Plan Vital must provide necessary vaccines to beneficiaries.

Regarding the elderly, the founder of VOCES mentioned Medical insurance encourages vaccinations.

“The biggest challenge (with vaccination) is precisely its success,” Rodriguez-Capo said.

Thanks to immunization and the eradication and control of certain infectious diseases, the dire consequences that previously caused huge damage on a global scale no longer occur. This may lead people to minimize the effects of the vaccine.

“We (those who can get vaccinated) have a responsibility to be a shield for those who can’t,” he said.

Before getting vaccinated, talk with your doctor about vaccination and what vaccines are recommended based on life stage and your specific situation, express any concerns you have about it, and clarify any concerns you have.

“For science, we cannot let our beliefs speak, but the data. After drinking water, vaccination is the most life-saving,” Dr. Ramos Benitez said.

The author is a special correspondent for Saludable in Puerto Rico.

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