It’s the time of year when we doctors are reminding patients that it’s a good idea to get a jab for flu. Flu can lead to serious disease and last winter around 900 people were admitted to intensive care with flu in the UK. Vaccination with the flu vaccine can protect people from developing this illness. This is also true for other infections. The WHO (World Health Organisation) reports licensed vaccines being available to prevent or contribute to the control of 25 vaccine-preventable infections. They have estimated that vaccination prevents 2.5 million deaths from infection each year.
Vaccination is when a vaccine stimulates an person’s immune system to develop immunity a virus, bacteria or infectious agent. It can prevent infection or reduce the severity of infections. The effectiveness of vaccination has been widely studied and verified; for example, the flu vaccine, the HPV vaccine and the Hepatitis B vaccine. Vaccination is the most effective method of preventing infectious disease.
Smallpox was probably the first disease people tried to prevent by inoculating themselves and was the first disease for which a vaccine was produced. The smallpox was designed in1796 by the British physician Edward Jenner. Louis Pasteur furthered the concept through his work in microbiology. The immunisation was called vaccination because it was derived from a virus affecting cows (Latin: vacca—cow). Smallpox was a contagious and deadly disease, causing the deaths of 20–60% of infected adults and over 80% of infected children.
In common speech, ‘vaccination’ and ‘immunisation’ have a similar meaning.
However, with vaccination, generally the vaccine may be made of inactivated (non-infective) or attenuated (with reduced infectivity) forms of the virus/bacteria, or purified parts of the pathogen.
This distinguishes it from inoculation, which uses unweakened live pathogens.
We offer vaccines for prevention of infection with HPV and Hepatitis B.
Both of these infections can be sexually transmitted. Hepatitis B has also be spread by blood-blood contact and via infected organ donation/blood transfusion.
Research has shown that these vaccines are very good at protecting against these infections.
As both HPV and Hepatitis B infections can lead to serious illnesses, then vaccination has large health benefits.