by Lorcan McKillop
When thinking about how activism could apply to a field that interests me whilst maintaining a connection to a prevalent theme of the course, my first thought was that science and world literature do not tend to mix. At a second glance however, it is easy to see how some of the overarching themes presented in We Should All Be Feminists and Thirty Girls, such as intellect in the modern world, and the importance of global interconnectivity, can be applied on a broad spectrum front to a plethora of issues in the world of medicine. Access and Education are two major contributors to the disparities in healthcare that we see in the world today. The inability to provide sufficient health services to an area, and the lack of information provided to patients so that they can make educated decisions regarding their own health, serve as detriments to maintaining a healthy, well treated population.
The phrase “knowledge is power” certainly holds to be true in the context of patient autonomy, as the ability to make an informed decision regarding one’s own health is a power that every individual has a right to. In We Should all be Feminists, Adichie highlights the importance of education when emphasizing that modern society should now be structured based on degree of intellect, rather than physical superiority. The incongruity in quality of life around the world presented in the variety of texts read throughout the semester illustrate the task at hand when it comes to ensuring equal and adequate healthcare access to all people. In Thirty Girls, Susan Minot addresses this incongruity in the quality of life around the world by using the juxtaposition of Jane and Esther’s stories. This juxtaposition between hardship and privilege exhibits the contrasting realities and ways of life experienced by people simply based on where they come from.
On a global scale, the task of providing access to immunization is met with obstacles in the form of cost, distribution, and awareness as to the prominence and dangers of potential disease and infection. On a local level, access is not as much of an issue, but educating patients on the value of immunization is of equal importance. The biggest struggle met by health care providers tasked with educating their patients on this front comes from the population who dismiss the debate of to be or not to be vaccinated with a simple phrase: “I do not believe in vaccinations.” Whether this truly does come from a lack of education or merely a fear of needles, to make this statement is to reject science and reason.
Both perspectives of the vaccine debate held across the country are displayed side by side here, which take note of the potential dangers and harmful ingredients in vaccinations. The “cons” are arguing that vaccines should not be mandatory, and that patient autonomy is crucial to a fully operational healthcare system. Granted, patient autonomy is important, and the choice to get vaccinated should be just that: a choice. It is vital however that vaccines are the right choice, and that any potential dangers that may lay in their ingredients are strongly outweighed by the dangers of not getting vaccinated at all.
Through the injection of a small sample of a disease, vaccinations introduce an antigen to an individual so that their immune system can produce sufficient memory cells and antibodies in order to adequately defend itself in the case of a real, full blown encounter with the disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Vaccines.gov emphasize the point that “vaccines are safe, protective, and save lives.” They are making an effort to inform individuals of why vaccines are necessary, and are promoting access by sharing information as to where one should go to get the vaccinations they need.
The next steps regarding the movement to get vaccinated, of course, is to encourage those around you to get the vaccinations they need and promote the distribution of health services to areas of disparity that may not be able to afford healthcare. There is a major push to promote immunization within one’s own community, as a community that gets vaccinated together, stays healthy together. This is a concept known as herd immunity, as disease struggles to spread in an immunized population. In the end, the decision as to whether or not one should get vaccinated is a voluntary, individual choice, and so all that can really be done is make sure that patients have enough information to make their decision an informed one, and ensure that there is treatment accessible to them should they choose to partake.