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July 30, 2017

Everyone Need Vaccines

Since its discovery when Edward Jenner made the first inoculation of cowpox in 1796, vaccines have come a long way. It has been regarded as still the cheapest most effective way of health prevention especially against "immunizable" infectious diseases. Many lives have been saved because of vaccines. However, as our understanding of medicine and health continue to evolve, production of vaccines and access to them continue to be confronted with a lot of challenges. There are still some parts of the world where we have failed to eradicate some "immunizable" diseases. And the erroneous claims that vaccines lead to development of autism did not help either. In developing countries, access to vaccines continue to be a challenge and a priority. Under the Expanded Program of Immunization of the World Health Organization, every child before he/she reaches the age of 1 year old must receive a prescribe set of vaccines that can help prevent the acquiring of common infectious diseases, most of which have debilitating effects on the child. In the Philippines alone, the country as a whole has yet to reach even its target coverage. The last report was around 80% of the target population were fully immunized in the previous years, way below its 95% target. And there are many reasons why children don't get vaccinated (even if the vaccines for children are free if you get them from a government facility). Number one is the issue of continuous supply of vaccines. There are instances when government facilities would run out of vaccines. And due to the archipelagic nature of the country, those living in remote areas are hardly reached by health workers whose numbers are not increasing. There are also issues of reliable cold chains that can store or transport vaccines to these hard-to-reach areas. And even if the vaccines are available, getting to the facility can be a challenge due to lack of transportation, lack of money to spend for transportation, lack of available time for health facility visits, lack of capability of caregiver to bring children for vaccination, etc. The list can be long and obviously cannot be addressed solely by the country's Department of Health.

But having said that, even in urban areas where access should not already be in issue, vaccination coverage is relatively low. Those who can afford to pay for their vaccines would prefer going to their pediatrician working in private facilities. Generally, most people think only children need vaccines. Adults also need vaccines. There are vaccines that can only be given to adults and to a specific group of adults who are more at risk of acquiring these diseases. 

Adults need also vaccines. Vaccines such as anti-HPV vaccine which is against the Human Papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer. This makes it the only vaccine that can prevent cancer. It is not only for women but it is also recommended for men since men can also carry and transmit the virus especially during unprotected sex.

It is also cost-effective for companies and organizations to ensure that their employees have up-to-date vaccines especially against flu or pneumonia. Imagine to reduced sick leaves due to these illnesses. That can save the company at the same time improve productivity. Same goes with schools. Students need to be vaccinated against these illnesses so that there would be reduced absences and more time in school.

And with the world getting smaller, a lot of people are always on the move, traveling either for vacation or for work-related activities. It is important that before one goes to another place or country, he or she should consult his or her doctor if he or she would need any vaccine or prophylaxis against endemic or local diseases, especially unique to that place. It is important that a person keeps his immunization record updated.

What is more important is for governments to ensure high accessibility to these life-saving vaccines. Governments must ensure availability of these vaccines at the frontlines and that families can be able to access these vaccines with as much little cost as possible.

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