Opinion

The value of vaccination

Annapurna Das | Updated on May 04, 2021

Covid has underscored the far-reaching impact of the jab

In the world of healthcare, both prevention, and cure compose of many threads. Today, the value of vaccines can’t be emphasised enough. They not only improve the health of people everywhere, but also create stronger, and more productive communities. Thanks to vaccination against various diseases, some 37 million lives were saved between 2000 and 2019 in low- and middle-income countries. With continued global commitment, an estimated 32 million more can be saved by 2030.

While it may take some more time to help bend the Covid curve, the crisis has underlined the value of vaccines in a world threatened by the burden of preventable diseases. As researchers race against time to make the most effective vaccines available, the healthcare industry and governments across the world are partnering to ensure their access. Just past the World Immunization Week, Covid-19 has ensured that the world is aware of the power of vaccination.

Over the years, vaccines have proven to be effective in the fight against many infectious diseases. Ridding the world of smallpox, driving polio to the brink of eradication, and virtually eliminating measles, diphtheria, and rubella in many parts of the world are some of the noteworthy achievements of vaccine development. New generation vaccines against pneumococcal disease and rotavirus disease are already making the same kind of public health impact as their pioneering predecessors and could save about one million children’s lives every year.

Although vaccines are generally associated with children, we need vaccines at every stage of our lives. The benefits of vaccines don’t end with childhood but continue as we age. During everyday life we may forget about the many benefits of vaccination, but we need protection through our lives to help prevent serious diseases that can result, in poor health, missed work, medical bills, and not being able to care for our family.

Taking a vaccination not only protects you from a certain disease but also protects the future population. A consistent effort towards regular and timely intervention may ensure eradication of several diseases in future. They ensure people stay healthy, eliminating a major obstacle to development. These benefits often extend to non-vaccinated population as well.

Effective immunisation can support economic growth by improving health of a population. This, in turn, can improve the health of a population and create a virtuous circle of progress. WHO has also demonstrated the role of vaccination in driving economic growth and economic equity, supporting developing countries to strengthen their health and social infrastructures.

The way forward

India is no stranger to large-scale immunisation programmes since the launch of ‘Expanded Programme of Immunization’ by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Over the years several modifications have been made to the program. From Universal Immunization Programme to Mission Indradhanush, and Intensified Mission Indradhanush, the government has turned a corner in strengthening immunisation programmes for the people. However, there are many glaring gaps that need to be addressed for the country to rely on vaccines.

Today, countries around the world are understanding the importance of vaccines. In Japan, rubella vaccines are available to all males between the ages of 39-56, free of cost till 2022. In places like Taiwan, patients have a free of cost, 24-hour hotline number for all queries related to vaccines. India must consider such measures from around the world to strengthen its existing programmes. With Covid-19 vaccination we have implemented several new strategies to reach out to the population that we don’t typically vaccinate. It’s time to leverage on this infrastructure and expand adult immunisation rates in the country especially for infectious diseases like flu, pneumonia and booster vaccines for the elderly that complete their cycle of protection.

Accessible vaccination will hold India’s key to a healthier future. Let’s prevent what can be prevented.

The writer is Country Head, Sanofi Pasteur, India

Published on May 04, 2021

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