As most of us are aware, vaccination plays a vital role in helping to give our children a healthy start in life. And, as a result, great things have been achieved. Following widespread coverage of vaccines in Europe over the last few decades, cases of measles have reduced by 98%, diphtheria by 99% and haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) by nearly 100%.
What’s much less well known is that the importance of vaccination doesn’t stop when we receive our last childhood shot. Vaccination is for life. Infectious diseases remain just as serious throughout adulthood and vaccines remain the most effective protection we have against them.
So if you can’t remember the last time you had a vaccine, read on.
Diseases such as influenza and pertussis can be especially dangerous – even potentially fatal – for infants, for older adults and for women during pregnancy. But the good news is that vaccines can help prevent these and many other diseases we are exposed to as adults.
What’s more, the benefits of vaccination go far beyond preventing you from getting the disease.
While you may think that influenza and varicella infection may just give you a week in bed and itchy spots, these infections are linked to significantly elevated risk of heart attacks and stroke.
We can also help those around us through an indirect impact known as “herd immunity”. Once the proportion of people in a community who have been vaccinated against a contagious disease reaches a certain point (usually about 90%), we help protect even those who haven’t been or can’t be vaccinated because the opportunity for the disease to spread is so much lower.
And it’s not just our health that suffers when we don’t vaccinate. There are also financial costs, from health care expenses and hospital stays to loss of productivity from days off work.
Thomas Breuer, our Vaccines Chief Medical Officer, explains how the flu impacts society
So if you can’t remember the last time you were vaccinated it’s time you had a conversation with your healthcare professional about how best to help protect your health and wellbeing for many years to come.
We may grow out of some habits we develop as children but we never grow out of vaccination.
Follow the conversation on Twitter at #vaccinateforlife.
More about vaccines
To challenge, to change
Vaccines: the most successful health intervention… ever
Vaccines for preventable diseases
Vaccine manufacture: it’s complicated
Vaccine manufacture can take anywhere between 6 and 26 months. That’s not to mention the time required to research and develop a new vaccine, which can take up to 30 years.