Vaccines work

Vaccines work and they are safe. In fact, they are more than safe — they save lives!

Immunization is one of the most significant and cost-effective public health achievements in modern times. Vaccines save children’s lives and stop the spread of diseases. Despite this fact, in 2017 more than half of the world’s most vulnerable children still miss out on essential vaccines they need to live healthy lives. In addition, an increased number of children are missing out on life-saving vaccines because of raising influence from anti-vaccine campaigns and rumours regarding the safety and the quality of the vaccines. The scientific fact is, vaccines work and they are safe. In fact, they are more than safe — they save lives!

A group of children with their parents waiting for immunization shots at the Shuto Orizari clinic in Skopje. 
 
 When most of the children in a community are vaccinated, individual cases of disease rarely escalate into an outbreak. But when some children miss out on vaccines, the risk of disease increases for all.

Nurse from the health clinic in Shuto Orizari prepares to administer a polyvalent vaccine.

In the country, there are 11 mandatory vaccines, most of which are now polyvalent vaccines covering a range of diseases including Tuberculosis, Poliomyelitis, Morbilli, Rubeolla, Hepatitis B, Parotitis epidemica, Haemophilus Influenzae B, Human Papiloma Virus, Diphteria, Tetanus and Pertussis.

A seven months old boy is being checked before vaccinated at the Bucharest Polyclinic in Skopje.

Immunization coverage in recent years has dropped in the capital city, registering the lowest coverage in the country for the MRP (Morbilli, Rubella Parotitis) vaccine, standing at only 67%, according to the Institute for Public Health. This is a growing trend that comes specifically because of false claims from global anti-vaccine campaigns claiming that the vaccine can be harmful to some children. Although not scientifically proven, this has led to a decline in vaccination coverage, which is in turn is now showing the first damaging effect with outbursts of measles in several countries in the region, including fatalities.

A boy is receiving a polyvalent vaccine in the Bucharest Polyclinic in Skopje.

In fact, access to immunization has led to a dramatic decrease in deaths of children under five from vaccine-preventable diseases. Globally, some 2–3 million lives are being saved on an annual level thanks to vaccines. In Macedonia, the vaccination coverage rates stand very close to the desired 95%, though declining trend is notable for some of the vaccines, particularly for the Morbilli, Rubella and Parotitis (MRP) vaccine. Some 3,860 out of 22,013 children haven’t received this vaccine in 2016, which means that the MRP coverage is only 82%.

A boy waiting for a vaccine in the health clinic in Shuto Orizari — Skopje municipality where majority of citizens are Roma.

As many as 19.4 million infants worldwide do not get their immunizations because they are not reached with vaccination coverage. Many live in urban slams or camps for displaced persons, where poor nutrition and inadequate health, water, sanitation and social services increase the risk of diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea and measles — all easily preventable with vaccines.

One year old girl waits with her mommy to get checked and vaccinated at the health clinic in Skopje.

Thanks to the vaccines, some diseases like smallpox have been completely eradicated. Some are on the verge of being eradicated like polio for instance and many other are put under control and are on the path towards being completely eradicated, such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, tetanus etc.

One year old boy is being prepared by his mother to receive a polyvalent vaccine in the Bucharest Polyclinic in Skopje.

If all children received their immunizations, at least some 1.5 million more lives could be saved. That is why we all need to contribute and to help spread the word that vaccines really work!