Vaccination is now recognised as one of the most successful and effective public health interventions for saving lives and promoting good health.
Prevention is a key goal in healthcare and the ability of vaccines to prevent illness and death associated with many serious diseases is one of the success stories of scientific innovation
Last month, during European Immunisation Week (April 21st – April 27th), Ireland launched a rather clever campaign to help remind the public of how crucial national immunisation programmes are. More importantly it included how vital it is to complete a vaccine schedule. A schedule may be one or a varied series of vaccinations, immunisations, shots and/or doses.
These may be had once, twice, three or even more times, at different ages, when exact or different time-periods have elapsed, and at which the same or different amounts of vaccine is given. Boosters can be scheduled or even recommended for other members of the family. All this depends almost exclusively on the vaccine under consideration.
So it seems that the development of immunity is remarkably complex. It is not difficult but it’s complexity can be gleaned through the above and use of terms such as “partial immunity”, “fully immune”, “waning immunity”, “herd immunity”, etc. Thus it’s very important to take the advice of your GP, doctor or local health authority rather than try to “research” the topic yourself.
The development of immunity may be complex, but we do know the development of vaccines is perhaps the greatest advance of modern medicine. In fact rather than getting bogged down in the copious amount of information regarding vaccines one could simply observe that Every Vaccine is a Little Victory.
Which brings us to the campaign itself launched last month in Ireland. Check out the video below. Chaps: you’re permitted to chuckle, smile, use words like “cool”, “nice kid”, suggest it’s a “top idea” and so on. Ladies: you may “Squeeee!, use words like “cute”, “gorgeous”, “Awwwwww”, etcetera. Do pass it around, all.
No matter how you react I trust you agree it’s a good idea. There is so much information and misinformation about vaccination, that purporting to “research” the topic and decide against vaccination is likely to involve denial of evidence. Indeed, quite a lot of evidence denial goes into rejecting vaccination.
Similarly, it’s going to prove rather challenging to suavely explain to ones mates and relatives the immunodynamics behind ones child’s third MMR vaccine. One might also look overly ambitious mounting a dinner discussion based on why it is quite safe to “complete the MMR schedule, chaps, in temporal proximity to this seasons influenza vaccine”.
Or reassure the gang over coffee that Janine can have faith in the immunogenicity of the live-attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) taken concurrently with the twins’ 56 week MMR dose. Perhaps, what’s really on everybody’s mind is the GMP standards as they apply to the reconstitution of vaccine diluent preparations?
Umm… No. As stated the amount of information out there is truly copious. Only the anti-vaccine lobby can keep a straight face whilst claiming to grasp the entirety of vaccine science and rewrite it’s conclusions at the same time. Perhaps they have drastic inside information on reconstituting vaccine diluent preparations?! Or rather, perhaps their unique way of getting attention is just a unique way of… getting attention.
For the rest of us, given that it’s far better to accept the word of qualified experts who overwhelmingly support vaccination, the word on the street is that Every Vaccine is a Little Victory. Presently it’s vital to remember this. The South of Wales in the UK is in the grip of a measles epidemic. Well over 1,100 cases and a frantic MMR catch-up programme has left the anti-vaccination lobby with all the charm of a malignant Chucky the Court Jester.
Australia has been fighting unacceptably high pertussis levels for years now. Recently, Aussie health authorities have begun to act on inadequate legislation that has well served the deceptively named Australian Vaccination Network Inc. Concurrently the AVN Inc. are fighting the NSW Office of Fair Trading to keep the name that has led to so much sickness, deception and despair.
With rising conscientious objection in the developed world, vaccine preventable diseases once thought all but eradicated are making a firm comeback. In the developing world, communities and parents are risking their lives to access vaccines for their children.
It was with certain purpose last month in Dublin then that Dr. James Reilly the Irish Minister for Health addressed a crowd gathered at the Royal College of Physicians, Trinity College. Health News Ireland reported that, Reilly observed:
“Vaccination is now recognised as one of the most successful and effective public health interventions for saving lives and promoting good health,” he told the gathering in the prestigious Royal College of Physicians, which nestles in the shadow of Trinity College.
“Prevention is a key goal in healthcare and the ability of vaccines to prevent illness and death associated with many serious diseases is one of the success stories of scientific innovation”.
He appeared to have no time for the detractors, the nay-sayers; or the ‘scattered thinking’ brigade, as he dubbed them.
Modern humans do poorly at gauging risk-benefit. A Pfizer booklet titled Vaccines – Protect Your Health at Every Age includes:
The vast majority of side-effects are minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever and have nothing to do with the infectious disease against which the immunisation is directed. New vaccines go through a rigorous testing in development and approval phases in Europe to make sure they are safe. The European Medicines Agency also monitors any adverse side-effects that might occur after the medicine is licensed.
In Ireland the National Immunisation Advisory Committee advises the “Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health on immunisation-related and vaccine matters”. Their responsibility to the Department of Health is to ensure the ability “to enable evidence-based immunisation related policy decisions”.
Committee Chair is Professor Denis Gill – (interviewed here). He ponders vaccines as a victim of their own success.
A lot of parents don’t realise just how bad the past was. Take measles, for instance: 1-in-1,000 children will die as a result of contracting measles.
Put it another way, one of the reasons we are living longer is because we are surviving childhood.
It is of course, beyond ironic. This theme arises in other areas also – from human rights to consumer rights.
Our health and longevity afford us the opportunity, through ignorance, to sabotage the very means that provide the improvements in the first place.
Every Vaccine Is A Little Victory