World Immunisation Week takes place each year during the final week of April.
The aim of this week is to encourage people to get protected from vaccine-preventable diseases and to highlight the benefits that vaccines have delivered.
This year’s theme assigned by the world Health Organisation is “The Big Catch-Up”, as some countries have fallen behind in ensuring most people are protected by vaccines, especially due to the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vaccines have been in use for hundreds of years. Evidence from China shows that people used cowpox to inoculate themselves against smallpox, an infectious disease with a high death rate. Since 1900, over 300 million people have died from smallpox – an entire United States of people.
Edward Jenner, an English doctor, tested the theory of using cowpox to protect against smallpox in 1796. His research was compiled into a report, disseminated in six languages, and by 1801 five years later, 100,000 people in the UK had been inoculated.
Today, we have vaccines for dozens of diseases, including rubella, polio, tetanus, and many more.
Each year, a renewed flu (influenza) vaccine is rolled out in the winter months. This vaccine is specially designed to consider what flu viruses are making people sick currently, what risks are associated with those viruses, and how much they are spreading prior to the winter.
The flu vaccination process is an important step in protecting people, especially those who are elderly and/or immunocompromised.
New vaccines are currently being researched and we have seen some promising progress in vaccines which may tackle malaria and HIV, two of the top ten causes of death in low-income countries each year. These new vaccines, along with our continued improvements in healthcare research, can help us get closer to the eradication of more diseases. Smallpox was officially declared eradicated in 1980. That is a pace we must ensure to increase.
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