Vaccination is the best protection against disease

Vaccination: The best protection against diseaseVaccinations are among the most important and effective preventive measures available in medicine. They can prevent the outbreak of diseases. Are generally well tolerated. And yet Germany lags behind when it comes to vaccination.

Vaccination the best protection against disease

The aim of a vaccination is to protect the recipient from a contagious disease. Vaccines are now available for 27 diseases (see end of article for list). You prepare a person's immune system so that the disease does not break out or only in a mitigated form. Thanks to vaccines, dreaded infectious diseases such as polio have lost their terror today. But inoculation has another goal: the measure protects not only the individual but the entire population. Because: If you don't get sick yourself, you can't infect anyone else either. This is important for all those members of society who cannot be vaccinated themselves, for example infants or people with an immune system that is not fully functional. A high vaccination rate means that individual pathogens can be eliminated regionally and eventually eradicated worldwide. In the case of two diseases, this has already been largely achieved: Smallpox has been considered eradicated worldwide since 1980, Europe has been free of polio since 2002, and in September 2020 the WHO will report that Africa is free of polio. This disease only appears in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Recommended vaccinations

In Germany, the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) determines which vaccinations are "recommended. The 18-member committee, which is appointed by the Federal Ministry of Health, publishes the so-called vaccination calendar once a year, in which it lists all recommended vaccinations. Important to know: The cost of all vaccinations recommended by the STIKO is covered by public health insurance. Other vaccinations, for example for long-distance travel, must be financed privately. For privately insured persons, cost coverage depends on the tariff selected, but many cover vaccinations – especially for children.

Vaccinations under discussion

Vaccinations differ from other medical procedures, says RKI, because they are performed on healthy people. That's why it's "justified to demand special care when vaccinating and also to discuss controversial points critically," the institute says. The debate often revolves around childhood vaccinations. The question is asked whether vaccination does not do more harm than good to children. There is no compulsory vaccination in Germany. Anyone can, without giving a reason, refuse a vaccination for themselves or their children. However, since summer 2017, parents have been required to provide proof of a doctor's vaccination consultation if they want to enroll their children in public child care.

The 2018 vaccination calendar
StiKo recommends vaccination for infants, children, adolescents and adults against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, pneumococcus, rotavirus, meningococcus C, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, human papillomavirus (HPV) and influenza.

Divided picture for vaccination rates

Vaccination the best protection against disease

It also examines whether two injections are necessary or whether a single injection is sufficient. To obtain an overview of the vaccination status of the population, the RKI scientists use, among other things, the results of the school entry examinations. According to the report, vaccination rates in Germany have risen steadily in recent years or. remains consistently high. This applies in particular to long-established standard childhood vaccinations, whose 2015 rates the institute rates as "still very good" for diphtheria (95.3 percent), tetanus (95.5 percent), pertussis (94.9 percent), Hib (93.3 percent) and poliomyelitis (94.5 percent).

In contrast, the scientists see a clear need for improvement in hepatitis B vaccination. The rate for school entry examinations in 2015 was only 87.6 percent nationwide and continues to be insufficient for this age group. The RKI also evaluates the vaccination rates for measles, mumps and rubella. The vaccination rate for the first measles vaccination is 96.8 percent nationwide, he said. With the exception of Baden-Wurttemberg, all German states achieved the 95 percent target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for eradicating the disease. The vaccination rate for the second measles vaccination, on the other hand, is on average only 92.8 percent – and thus significantly below the WHO guidelines. Measles is considered one of the most contagious human diseases. Are a major cause of increased infant mortality in many regions of the world. The virus is transmitted by droplets that enter the air when people sneeze, cough or talk. Up to 30 percent of measles sufferers develop complications. One child in ten suffers from middle ear infection, and one in 20 develops pneumonia. In one of 1.000 cases, encephalitis occurs, which can be fatal in 25 percent of those affected.

According to WHO estimates, around 134 people died of measles in 2015.200 children worldwide with the disease. Germany has also seen numerous measles outbreaks in recent years. In 2015, the RKI, to which cases must be reported, counted 2.464 cases. After a rather quiet year in 2016 (325 cases), there had been a significant increase again in 2017. Outbreaks occur primarily in family settings, but also in schools and medical facilities such as clinics and doctors' offices, he said. Patients as well as the staff and relatives working at the facilities were affected in equal measure. The RKI warns: measles cases in the first year of life increase the risk of complications and late sequelae of the disease. Parents of infants and their pediatricians should be even more vigilant about early measles vaccination. Medical staff should also be vaccinated to avoid putting patients at risk.

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