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A more detailed look at some of the issues around vaccines and vaccinations.

Why Vaccination Matters

With the world rightly focusing on the pandemic, there has been increasing concern that routine medical treatments and vaccinations are at a record low (see e.g. worrying trend regarding cancer diagnoses during the lockdown, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(20)30388-0/fulltext). 

This is in part due to limited medical resources being re-purposed to deal with the huge pressures being placed on national healthcare systems, but it is also suggested that this is due to the concern about transmission of Covid-19 coming through the type of close contact synonymous with receiving treatment or a vaccination. With vaccination uptake at a record low worldwide, this can have lasting ramifications, particularly in the developing world. The world over, it is of the utmost importance to keep up with regular vaccination programmes, especially for children. 

With vaccinations for MMR, MenB, Diphtheria and Polio proving to have been very effective at decreasing the incidence of these diseases for decades, it is important to continue with the roll out of immunisation programmes to continue to prevent these diseases. The scale of the decrease in these diseases with the introduction and dissemination of these vaccines is quite extraordinary, for example, the near elimination of polio (decrease of 99% since 1988, see https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/poliomyelitis). 

But this excellent work of medical professionals, governments, NGOs and the public in all nations should not now be discounted or even hindered by hesitancy, or outright opposition, to the continued administration of vaccinations. 

For vaccination programmes to be effective at preventing the transmission of a disease, a high percentage of the population needs to have received the vaccination or otherwise have immunity. Where routine childhood vaccinations are not administered regularly, so much so that take up falls below the threshold needed for there to be effective immunity in that population, it becomes much easier for the disease to spread if an infected person comes into contact with others who have not been vaccinated. This puts many other people at risk, particularly those who are not able to be vaccinated for a myriad of health reasons.

An example of what can happen when a portion of a population does not continue with regular vaccinations can be seen when the UK lost its measles-free designation from the WHO in 2019 (https://www.newscientist.com/article/2213764-the-uk-has-lost-its-world-health-organization-measles-free-status/). 

The widespread concern caused by the claims made by Andrew Wakefield in the late 1990s led to numerous parents either not vaccinating their children and not going for subsequent booster jabs. Wakefied’s claims have been thoroughly disproved and the BMA removed his medical license. However, the impact of even this short period of reduced take up has been multiple outbreaks of Measles in and around the South East of England and significant Mumps outbreaks, particularly at Universities as first-year undergraduates, many of who were either not vaccinated or had not received their booster jabs, mixed and mingled with a far greater number of people as they commenced their studies.

The way to help ensure that these sorts of outbreaks do not continue is for there to be a community of immunity. 

A community of immunity is not only crucial for ensuring societal safety by stopping outbreaks that can be avoided and that often are serious in nature, it is an important step toward protecting those who have serious health concerns who cannot receive certain vaccinations and would surely become greatly impaired from contracting the disease. A community of immunity helps reduce the risk of spread and helps protect the most vulnerable in our society. 


The search for a safe and effective Covid vaccine is the World’s no1 medical priority