Vaccination is universally recognized as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions for preventing diseases. It is a well-known harm reduction strategy responsible for averting 2 to 3 million deaths from diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, and diphtheria. Even though overall vaccination refusal is less than 2%, there is a need to create awareness about the significance of vaccination in our country.
The first-ever conference on harm reduction organized on 30th January 2019 by the Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and IJCP focused on vaccination. It discussed how the aim should be to eradicate a disease and if not, then reduce the burden in the society. Withholding vaccines from a child or an adult because of a hypothetical risk places them at risk for real infection that may have real sequelae.
‘According to WHO, vaccine hesitancy is considered as one of the ten threats to global health in 2019. So, awareness is the key in some society where there are reluctance, opposition and slow acceptance to vaccination.’
Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Immunization is necessary for one and all. Often, people assume that it is not necessary because their children appear healthy or do not fall sick often. In other cases, health workers may not be able to reach out to some families due to non-availability of members at a certain point. There is a need to create awareness on the importance of immunization particularly for children and expectant mothers. Doing so will help us play a role in the larger good of the nation and achieve the government’s target also in a timely manner. Apart from this, there is also a need to scale up manpower, supplies, budget, and other resources to speed up the process.”
Mission Indradhanush, depicting seven colors of the rainbow, targets to immunize all children against seven vaccine preventable diseases namely Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Childhood Tuberculosis, Polio, Hepatitis B and Measles. In addition to this, vaccines for JE (Japanese Encephalitis) and Hib (Hemophilus influenzae type B) are also being provided in selected states. Apart from this, there are also vaccinations for adults.
Adding further, Dr Arun Gupta Sr Paediatrician and President DMC said, “Apart from operational challenges, there is reluctance, opposition, and slow acceptance by some in the society. Vaccine hesitancy must be addressed on priority. Vaccinations are definitely one of the most imminent harm reduction strategies.”
Some recommendations from the conference
WHO has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the 10 threats to global health in 2019. Vaccine hesitancy should be addressed on priority at every level.
Hepatitis B vaccine protects from hepatocellular carcinoma.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects from HPV infection, a major cause of cervical cancer.
Adult vaccination should also be addressed.