What are Vaccines and How Helpful are they in Preventing Diseases?

Posted by Vijayachandar Ravichandran on Fri, Jan 10, 2020  
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To understand much better let's start with the story of Polio. It is one of the deadly diseases humans have faced. This disease leaves the one affected, with lifelong physical disabilities. 40 years back there were more than 50 thousand cases of Polio worldwide and now in 2017, it was just 22. And the best thing is that except for 3 countries, all other countries including India are now Polio-Free countries. This massive win against Polio was just because of Polio vaccination that was given in all countries.


So what are vaccines?


Vaccines are derived from deadly microbes that cause disease to us. But, we have either killed those microbes or made them weak so that they can't cause disease when injected or taken orally. Since these microbes or their parts in the vaccine looks like the original deadly ones, our body creates immune memory cells after encountering them. Hence, the next time when the real deadly microbe enters our body, we already have a weapon personalized for each one of them and can attack them much faster and stronger, thereby preventing disease.


How effective are vaccines?


To understand the effectiveness of vaccines, let's see some real-life cases against deadly diseases:


After the first vaccine (smallpox) was discovered in 1798, this deadly disease has been wiped out from our planet and millions of lives are saved each year.


 In 1958, there were 763,094 cases of measles in the USA; 552 deaths resulted. After the introduction of new vaccines, the number of cases dropped to fewer than 150 per year.


Why some people are reluctant to give a vaccine to their children?


I have come across a couple of parents who are so determined not to give a vaccine to their children. It is purely because of their lack of awareness about the vaccination and its benefits. Yes, there are few side effects after taking vaccination like fever, allergic reaction, etc. But, the merits of vaccination wins over the small side effects.


Knowing about vaccination status in India:


In India, the government is giving vaccines free of cost in all government hospitals under the Universal Immunization Programme and the vaccine list and their details can be seen in this link: National Immunization Schedule The Indian Academy of Paediatrics revised schedule 2018 (IAP) for vaccination can be found here: IAP recommended vaccines


So, there are how many vaccine-preventable diseases?


As per the World Health Organization, we have about 26 vaccine-preventable diseases and there are more than 20 vaccines that are in the pipeline under research.


The current state of vaccination:


The sad state is that 19.9 million infants did not receive any vaccination in 2017 (WHO). Global vaccination coverage remains at 85%, with no significant changes during the past few years. And around 60% of these children live in 10 countries: India, Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa.


What can we do?


We people can create more awareness about vaccination and its benefits by talking to friends and family. We can run awareness campaigns in rural areas where the penetration of vaccination is low.


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