Infectious diseases were the most common cause of death in the past. Around 1900, 65,000 children died each year from whooping cough, diphtheria and scarlet fever. Today, such deaths are, thank goodness, the big exception. In addition to improving socioeconomic conditions and the increasing availability of antibiotics, immunization vaccines have contributed to this.
The immediate goal of the vaccine is to activate the immune system against certain invading pathogens and prevent disease. To be prevented specifically:
- Severe infectious diseases in which there are no or limited treatment options against the pathogen. For example, hepatitis B, polio (poliomyelitis), rabies, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis A in adults.
- Possible serious complications in infectious diseases such as encephalitis (measles encephalitis) with a lethality rate of 20-30%.
- Possible serious illnesses in high-risk patients, for example influenza vaccination in the elderly and persons with specific underlying diseases.
- Infectious diseases that can cause serious harm to the child during pregnancy (for example, rubella) or childbirth (for example, chickenpox).
Collective protection of the population
In addition to the protection of the individual against pathogens that are transmitted from person to person, many vaccinations have yet another effect: they lead to a collective protection of the population.
This prevents the occurrence of epidemics and protects people who can not be vaccinated for medical reasons. With high immunization rates, chains of infection can be broken and pathogens eliminated regionally and eventually eradicated worldwide.
In a disease such as tetanus, whose pathogen in the intestine of animals and thus also in the soil occurs and therefore can arise after each contaminated wound, there is a protection only for people with current vaccination. Even a surviving disease of tetanus does not guarantee immune protection - only the regular vaccine is able to.
Eradication of diseases - danger is not everywhere banned
By large-scale international vaccination programs so far the Smallpox eradicated worldwide and the vaccination will be discontinued. In the poliomyelitis (Poliomyelitis) is also reached in most countries of the world and also in Europe. Before the vaccine was introduced, polio in Germany was responsible for thousands of deaths and disabilities.
Since the Polio Virus continues to be vaccinated in some developing countries and there is a risk of introduction. Also the diphtheria has largely lost its terror through consistent vaccination.
These successes of vaccinations have led to many people today being unaware of the dangers of infectious diseases. Often it is not known that the pathogens of measles, mumps and whooping cough are still widespread in our country. Due to increasing travel, there is also a risk of importing infectious diseases.
What happens during a vaccination?
A vaccination mimics the natural processes in the immune system of the infected. The body's own immunological defense systems are used by administering killed or severely attenuated pathogens to a Build up immune protection, A renewed contact with the same pathogens then no longer leads to an infection or at least no longer to the disease.
Depending on the vaccine, this protection can be life-long or must be reactivated by booster vaccinations. For example, measles-mumps-rubella vaccine produces lifelong immunity in almost all vaccinees according to current scientific knowledge. Against diphtheria and tetanus, however, the vaccine protection must be refreshed every 10 years, against the ever-changing influenza virus even annually.
Infants and toddlers vaccinate
In infectious diseases, infants and toddlers are particularly vulnerable. To build an early immune protection, most of the recommended vaccinations should therefore be started in the 2nd month of life.
According to the current recommendations of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), children should have a basic immunization against the following diseases by at least the 14th month of age:
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
- Hepatitis B
- Haemophilus influenza type b
In addition, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and chickenpox should be vaccinated at least once. The 2nd MMR vaccination should take place until the end of the second year of life. The vaccination against meningococcal C should take place from 12 months.
Do not be afraid of vaccinations
By using combination vaccines, today's infants can be effectively protected against numerous infectious diseases with just a few injections! Modern vaccines are effective and well tolerated. Undesirable serious side effects are rarely seen.
However, with low rates of morbidity achieved, even very rare vaccine complications become a widely discussed problem for society. For this reason, in many countries people with vaccine-critical attitudes sometimes receive a lot of media attention.
Unproven theses or rumors about alleged harmful effects (autism, diabetes, MS) can make the vaccination strategy significantly more difficult and lead to setbacks in the elimination of certain diseases.
The most common reason for not vaccinating is forgetting or false contraindications like trivial infections. Information about vaccination questions can be given by your family doctor, pediatrician and your health department.