April 24th-30th is World Immunization Week and the theme this year is ‘Protected Together: Vaccines Work!’ The campaign hopes to appreciate the people - parents, community members, health workers and innovators who work tirelessly to protect us using vaccines. Here are 10 facts about immunisation that will convince you that vaccines are our best weapons in the war against life-threatening infectious diseases.
1. Vaccination singularly prevents 2-3 million deaths every year and is scientifically-proven as the most effective way to stop infectious diseases like Bacterial Diarrhoea, Typhoid, Polio and Pneumococcal Disease.
2. Understanding the vaccination schedule in India is simple. It has two main parts - the age at which to give the first dose and the time between the future doses. If you miss a vaccination date, first contact your paediatrician, and then check on the ‘Catch-Up Vaccination Schedule’ that is expressly built for times like these.
3. Vaccines are made as safe as possible. This means that it’s common to sometimes have a mild fever and some pain at the injection spot for a couple of days after getting immunised.
4. Vaccination is cost-effective and important, especially for children. Unimmunised children are at high risk of contracting a number of vaccine-preventable diseases. Once infected, it can become a huge financial drain on parents and those supporting them when you account for long-term medical care and varying levels of lifelong disabilities.
5. Vaccines for a number of diseases are now easily available. While cost was a big challenge earlier, today a number of health insurance policies in India offer additional cover to defray vaccination expenses for up to a year after a child is born. Some plans even extend the scope of coverage to include conditions like Rabies.
6. Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) are still a massive threat to Indian children. Of the 1,34,000 global measles deaths in 2015, it is estimated that close to 47,000 occurred in India alone. Two doses of the measles vaccine, given at 9-12 months and 16-24 months as well as the Rubella vaccine are included in the National Immunisation Programme and are our best chance at fighting back.
7. While there are a number of electronic aids like apps for popular Android and iOS platforms and online vaccination schedule reminders, their efficiency is questionable. Bug fixes and regular updates aside, a handwritten/printed schedule from your doctor that is regularly updated is your safest bet.
8. Children who aren’t vaccinated can contract and spread diseases to others who are too young to be vaccinated or to people with compromised immunity like transplant recipients or people undergoing cancer therapy. The results could be an array of long-term complications or even cause death.
9. Although Dengue is not as serious as Malaria, it spreads quickly and kills close to 20,000 people in dengue-prone areas every year. Japanese pharma company, Takeda Pharmaceutical hopes to launch its dengue vaccine to prevent the mosquito-borne fever by as early as 2020. If successful, it will tackle a serious but less talked about tropical illness and thus impact global health significantly.
10. A little over a decade ago, India accounted for nearly 70% of wild polio cases worldwide. This year, 2019, is the fifth anniversary of a polio-free World Health Organisation (WHO) designated South-East Asia Regional Network (SEARO) region. Getting vaccines to people was key to making this possible.
Vaccines have come a long way and now go way beyond being a preventative measure for infectious diseases. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are cropping up across the country and creating aggressive strains of superbugs. Vaccines are at the fore of this fight, helping limit the spread of antibiotic resistance. This is possible because If people are vaccinated and don’t get infected, there is little chance of antibiotic abuse, thus ensuring no more superbugs are ever created.
By making sure we understand the importance of vaccination and stay up-to-date on the ones prescribed for both ourselves and our children, we can reduce the number of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases and reduce the global and country’s death toll greatly. Early and complete vaccination means half the war on illness is already won. Will you do your bit?
To know more about the Swasth Immunised India campaign, click here.