Letter from the World Health Organisation: Get vaccinated
We notice that the Samoa Observer has recently published a number of articles dedicated to Measles, including opinions from the public.
We would like to offer the World Health Organisation’s (W.H.O.) authoritative, up-to-date and evidence-based input on the subject.
Help to protect your family and community. Get vaccinated.
Globally and in the Western Pacific Region there has been a dramatic increase in measles cases.
This is extremely worrying and threatens the health and safety of our communities from diseases that are preventable through vaccination. The World Health Organization Samoa Country Office wishes to reinforce the effectiveness and safety of vaccination as the best protection against vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, and encourages all community members to ensure that they and their children are vaccinated, according to the national immunization schedule.
Why do we need vaccines and how do they work?
Individuals need vaccines to protect them from serious infectious diseases which are preventable through vaccination. Vaccines help your immune system fight infections more efficiently by sparking your immune response to specific diseases. Then, if the virus or bacteria ever invades your body in the future, your immune system will already know how to fight it. This is called immunity.
What is ‘herd immunity’ and why does it provide the best protection against outbreaks?
When you and enough people in your community are vaccinated against infectious diseases like measles, these diseases are prevented from spreading or causing outbreaks. This is called herd immunity. Communities need herd immunity as this provides the best protection against a disease from spreading and infecting the most vulnerable members of our community who can’t be vaccinated, like young babies or individuals with certain health conditions.
Why do some people who have been vaccinated still get sick?
Vaccines help a person’s immune system create a protection against specific diseases. However, not everyone’s immune system responds in the same way, and for some, their response to a vaccine might not be enough to create immunity.
For most vaccines, 85-99% of vaccinated individuals will gain immunity, which means that around 15 out of every 100 vaccinated individuals will not. This is why multiple doses are needed for some vaccines and why we rely on herd immunity to protect our communities from disease outbreaks. Even countries that have high immunization coverage are still at risk of outbreaks, although less so, because there may be some groups of people who are not immunized, which allows the disease to spread.
Can vaccination weaken a child’s immune system?
Vaccines do not make a child sick with the disease and does not weaken their immune system. Instead vaccines help their bodies develop their natural defence mechanisms to protect again these diseases. Being vaccinated against one disease also does not weaken the immune response to another disease and there is no evidence of vaccination causing a child to develop allergic, autoimmune and respiratory diseases later in life.
How safe are vaccines?
Vaccines are safe. All vaccines go through rigorous safety testing, including clinical trials where they are tested on thousands of people before they are approved for use by the public. Scientists are also constantly monitoring information from several sources for any sign that a vaccine may cause an adverse reaction. Most vaccine reactions are usually minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever. In rare and unfortunate situations where a serious side effect is reported, these are investigated immediately to determine the cause.
Are alternates treatment to vaccines, like vitamin A and C, effective?
In certain populations, WHO recommends children are provided vitamin A supplements with immunization services, as it has been shown to reduce child mortality in up to 24%. However, vitamins such as A and C are not a replacement to vaccination as they do not provide immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles.
For more information about vaccines, visit: https://www.who.int/campaigns/immunization-week/2018/en/
Dr. Rasul Baghirov
Head of WHO Office in Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau