Thanks to vaccines, some diseases no longer pose a risk to the lives of children in developed countries, but they still exist in underdeveloped countries. Vaccination is the most important preventive measure we have, so much so that one of the dreams of the medical community would be to be able to vaccinate 100% of the population. Sometimes the number of lives they save and the amount of pathology they prevent is forgotten.
We know for sure that vaccination saves lives. Some diseases that we can avoid with vaccination wreaked havoc years ago. According to data from the Spanish Ministry of Health, for example, poliomyelitis in Spain caused 2,132 cases of permanent paralysis in 1959 and up to 208 deaths in 1960, the vast majority of those affected were children under 15 years of age.
When high vaccination coverage against a disease is achieved, there is a significant decrease in the number of infected people. On the contrary, when vaccination coverage decreases, the number of susceptible people increases and the number of disease cases increases again.
When there are enough vaccinated people in the population, protection reaches unvaccinated people, because microorganisms find it very difficult to advance. Before the introduction of vaccination schedules in developed countries, infectious diseases were the leading cause of infant mortality (tetanus, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps) and epidemics were frequent.
Vaccines are safe and effective. They are subjected to an exhaustive evaluation by expert professionals, according to international protocols. The administration can cause discomfort at the injection site, such as local pain or redness in the area, but nothing compared to the pain and pathology caused by the diseases they prevent. Serious side effects are rare.
Thanks to vaccination programs, infectious outbreaks of diseases that are prevented by vaccination are not frequent. That is why some people believe that these diseases are now eradicated, that they pose no danger or even that vaccination is more dangerous than the diseases they protect against. Nothing is further from reality. Infectious outbreaks remain a threatBecause if vaccination coverage drops (for example, if there are people who do not get vaccinated or get vaccinated with fewer doses than recommended) these diseases emerge.
An example of this is the measles epidemic that occurred in Bulgaria in 2009 and 2010, causing 24,047 cases of measles and 24 deaths. Another example is the diphtheria epidemic in the Russian Federation that began in 1990 and later spread to other countries of the former Soviet Union, with more than 157,000 cases and 5,000 deaths between 1990 and 1998 (data from the Ministry of Health).
On the contrary, some diseases have already been eliminated, for example smallpox, which produced 5 million deaths every year throughout the world, was eradicated in 1978 and vaccination was suspended in Spain in 1980.
Polio is on the way to being eradicated, although it has not yet been achieved. Measles in Europe still produces epidemic outbreaks, although in the last 10 years the notification of cases has decreased by more than 96%. The last outbreak in Madrid was in 2011, which made it necessary to advance vaccination at 12 months.
Vaccination is a high cost measure but that supposes a great benefit for the health and well-being of the population. It is even economically profitable, as it is cheaper to vaccinate than the expense of the disease. It also protects against the long-term effects of disease on physical and mental well-being. It prevents deaths and disability, benefiting both the individual and society.
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