In the vaccine wars Anti-vaxxers and Anti-Vaccine Movements claim “I have the right to decide what I put in my body”. Many pro-vaccine people accept that argument. However, the point only makes sense if the person lives like a hermit in the middle of nowhere. Vaccination is the main tool for primary prevention of disease and one of the most cost-effective public health measures available. Immunisation through vaccination is the best defence we have against serious, preventable, and sometimes deadly, contagious diseases. Thanks to widespread vaccination, smallpox has been eradicated, Europe made polio-free, and many other diseases almost eliminated.
The Vaccination Confidence and the Anti-Vaccination Movement
Today, more than 100 million children are vaccinated annually against diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, tuberculosis, polio, measles, and hepatitis B. Vaccination prevents an estimated 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year and reduces disease-specific treatment costs, including antimicrobial treatments (prescribed for viral infections).
Despite its brilliant track record, several EU and neighbouring countries are currently facing unprecedented outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases due to insufficient vaccination coverage rates. Unequal access to vaccines and the waning of public confidence in vaccination are a cause for concern and a major challenge for public health experts.
Anti-Vaccine Movement – Anti vaxxers
Those who choose not to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases are causing a public health crisis. Disease outbreaks have killed millions of people, and scientists have spent generations developing ways to save those in jeopardy. Still, many people don’t think it’s a good idea to protect themselves or their children from preventable diseases, and choose to forego vaccinations.
In the past decade, measles-vaccination rates in some European countries have often fallen below those in parts of Africa. Italy, France and Serbia, for example, have lower child-vaccinations rates than Burundi, Rwanda and Senegal*. (Economist)
What’s the Truth Behind Vaccines?
Childhood vaccinations – Childhood immunisation
Immunisation is a safe and cost-effective way to protect people – especially infants, babies and young children – from certain infectious diseases. All EU countries have a vaccination schedule and vaccinations guidelines, recommending the vaccines to be given at various ages during childhood.
Despite this, many children and babies in Europe go unvaccinated and remain vulnerable to potentially life-threatening diseases. The key to preventing serious consequences as a result, is to ensure that every community is not only prepared but also well informed. Many parents believe in the discredited link between vaccines and autism.
Why Parents Fear Vaccines
Debunking myths, promoting science based arguments and ensuring that individuals understand the importance of vaccines at every stage of life is as crucial as providing equitable access to the vaccines available to protect them.
The Vaccination Confidence Scale
The majority of the EU public agree that vaccines are important, safe, and effective. Across the 28 EU member states, public perceptions towards vaccines is largely positive, with the majority of the EU public agreeing (strongly or tend to agree) that vaccines are important (90.0%), safe (82.8%), effective (87.8%), and compatible with religious beliefs (78.5%). The majority of the EU public also agree that MMR and seasonal influenza vaccines are important and safe. The MMR vaccine is much more likely than the seasonal flu vaccine to be perceived as important (83.8% versus 65.2%) and safe (81.7% versus 69.4%).
Why I Changed My Mind On Vaccinations
Flu Vaccines – Seasonal Influenza – Grippe
Vaccination plays a vital role in protecting humans against the flu (influenza). In the European Union it is estimated that, vaccination against seasonal influenza alone, prevents up to 37,000 deaths each year. The seasonal influenza vaccine is viewed as both less important and less safe than the MMR vaccine and vaccines generally.
Vaccinations in the EU health strategy
There has been growing awareness of the increasing vaccine hesitancy among both members of the public and health professionals in Europe, where a number of countries have faced important confidence crises in the past 20 years which partly resulted in the devastating measles outbreaks seen today.
In a number of EU countries, anti-vaccine groups, aided by social and mainstream media, are gaining traction and have started influencing politics and political elections. The examples of Sweden and Poland more generally illustrate how confidence can decline in any country, even those with optimal coverage rates and successful vaccination programmes. However, countries such as France have shown that it is possible to reverse this trend. The recent measles outbreaks should be used as an opportunity to remind people of the importance of vaccination and the dangers of vaccination-preventable diseases. Coordinated approaches across sectors but also countries should be favoured to facilitate the exchange of best practice and effective communication methods.
Vaccinations Schedule and the Doctors Debate
If healthcare professionals are to remain the most effective way of building and maintaining trust in the general population, a continuous monitoring system should be established to detect any potential changes in their own beliefs and behaviours.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
For women in the EU aged 15-44, cervical cancer is the second most common form after breast cancer. Cervical cancer is caused by certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV). In different studies, HPV was detected in more than 90% of cervical cancers. There are vaccines that can prevent infection with the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer. Countries with cervical cancer screening programs have substantially reduced cervical cancer incidence and deaths.
HPV vaccines do not give 100% protection against cervical cancer and vaccination is not a replacement for routine cervical screening. National authorities are encouraged to carry out organised population-wide cervical screening by smear test before introducing HPV vaccination.
Vaccines during pregnancy: Are they safe?
Generally, vaccines that contain killed (inactivated) viruses can be given during pregnancy. Vaccines that contain live viruses aren’t recommended for pregnant women. The flu shot is recommended for women who are pregnant during flu season — typically November through March but you have always to ask your doctor! If you’re planning a pregnancy, talk to your doctor or health care provider about any vaccines you might need beforehand.
European Vaccine Action Plan 2015-2020
Vaccine confidence concerns the belief that vaccination – and by extension the providers and range of private sector and political entities behind it – serves the best health interests of the public and its constituents.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines confidence as “the mental attitude of trusting in or relying on a person or thing”. In light of that, we are not examining the well-studied domain of supply and access barriers to vaccination, but rather what is typically called the “demand” side of immunisation.
Despite the historic success of immunisation in reducing the burden of childhood illness and death, episodes of public concerns and rumours around vaccines have occurred around the world, spreading quickly and sometimes seriously eroding public confidence in immunisation and ultimately leading to vaccine refusals and disease outbreaks.