Saturday, July 2, 2016

Malaysia - Without vaccination, children are at risk

THE importance of childhood immunisation has been popular fodder for public debate with reports of death supposedly caused by vaccination adversely shaping public perception.

Parents have questioned the safety of immunising their children. Therefore, a re-education of societal opinion about public health, in particular, acceptance of vaccination in controlling vaccine-preventable disease is paramount.

Vaccination has been proven effective in controlling smallpox, polio, rubella, measles and other infectious diseases among children, adolescents and adults (Maglione, Das et al. 2014).

According to the World Health Organisation, about two million to three million lives are saved by vaccination (Ryman, Dietz et al. 2008). In the United States, vaccination has succeeded in reducing the mortality, disability and morbidity rates from vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD) (Zhou, Shefer et al. 2014; Patel, Pabst et al. 2015).

Vaccination helps to prevent diseases from occurring. Failure in giving vaccination at the correct time may put our children at risk (Miller 2015). Children who do not receive optimum vaccination have greater risk of mortality compared with vaccinated children. In countries where the vaccination rates are higher, the incidences of VPD also drop (Ehreth 2003).

Contrary to some beliefs, vaccination does not weaken the immune system in babies but it helps to create a “memory”, strengthening the immune system and allowing the body to respond immediately, especially for VPD.

When a baby is born, it is exposed to various types of bacteria and virus. It can survive these attacks because it has the antibodies from the mother. However, these antibodies can sustain only in the first year of life (Offit, Quarles et al. 2002), hence the importance of vaccination to boost the baby’s immune system.

Vaccination does not increase the risk of being infected with other diseases (Sanford, Kimmel et al. 2007). A previous study by Sanford, Kimmel et al. (2007) stated that the administration of vaccinations against tetanus, influenza and Hepatitis B did not affect the risk of relapse in multiple sclerosis patients.

Another study by Hviid, Stellfeld et al. (2004) reported that vaccination did not cause Type 1 diabetes. Vaccination is also cost-effective in treating VPD. Due to global vaccination campaigns, vaccination for smallpox is no longer important to health authorities. In many countries, budget for smallpox vaccination has being stopped and they could spend the money that was saved for other uses.

In addition, the cost of vaccination is lower compared with the cost of treating diseases like hypertension. The cost of curing diseases is more expensive compared with the cost of prevention. In the US, the cost of healthcare per day is equivalent to the cost of immunising against six infectious diseases in the developing world. By spending not more than US$20 (RM80), children are able to get immunisation against polio, pertussis, measles, tetanus and diphtheria (White, Koplan et al. 1985; Ehreth 2003).

In addition, vaccination creates “herd immunity”, which provides resistance for a group of individuals from disease transmission or attack. For example, when a group of children is immunised, they can protect one or two children who did not get the immunisation. It is effective when at least 90 per cent of the children are immunised in that group.

Health authorities and governments should work together with the public to create more aggressive health awareness campaigns to make sure that the public, especially the younger generation, accept vaccination.

NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PROFESSORS USM Chapter (MPN-USM), Medical and Health Cluster

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