Immunization prevents deaths every year in all age groups from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), influenza and measles (4-5 million deaths every year). It is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions. An additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided, however, if global vaccination coverage improves.
European Immunization Week this year is like no other we have celebrated before. Today we are in the midst of an unprecedented COVID-19 vaccine rollout across the world that offers us optimism that “vaccines will bring us closer” again. This optimism is embedded in the knowledge that with high uptake of vaccines and adherence to public health measures we can beat this pandemic.
Key messages 2021:
Students from The Faculty of Preventive Medicine (group 3301) and the Pediatric Faculty (group 2414) devoted today's lesson to an important event - the end of European Immunization Week.
In the European Region, it has been 462 days since the first COVID-19 cases were reported. Based on numbers of confirmed cases, 5.5% of the entire European population has now had COVID-19, while 7% has completed a full vaccination series.
Most children today receive lifesaving vaccines. An estimated WHO 116.3 million (about 86%) children under the age of one year worldwide received three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine. Three WHO regions have now eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus: South-East Asia - home to nearly one quarter of the global population; the region of the Americas, and the European region. These children are protected against infectious diseases that can cause serious illness or disability and be fatal. The world is closer than ever to eradicating polio. Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause irreversible paralysis. Global measles mortality has declined by 73%. More countries are using human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer. Clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance have shown that HPV vaccines are very safe and effective in preventing infections with HPV. By preventing many serious early-childhood infectious diseases, routine vaccinations help children grow into healthy adults.
Vaccines can help limit the spread of antibiotic resistance. The global increase in disease caused by drug-resistant bacteria, due to overuse and misuse of antibiotics, is a major public health concern. Vaccinating humans and animals is a very effective way to stop them from getting infected and thereby preventing the need for antibiotics. Making better use of existing vaccines and developing new vaccines are important ways to tackle antibiotic resistance and reduce preventable illness and deaths.
Where vaccination rates in high-risk groups are highest, admissions to hospitals are decreasing and death rates are falling. Vaccines are saving lives, and they will change the course of this pandemic and eventually help end it.
Every year during European Immunization Week, we highlight the fact that for over 200 years, vaccines have protected us against life-threatening diseases. Today they help protect against more than 20 diseases, from pneumonia to cervical cancer and now also COVID-19.
Authors: MD, PhD, Associate Professor O.A. Gorbich, MD, PhD, Associate Professor M.I. Bandatskaya, students (3301 and 2414 groups).
Photo from the personal archive of O.A. Gorbich and M.I. Bandatskaya