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The World Health Organization (WHO) stress the two greatest public health interventions to impact global health involve access to clean water and vaccinations.

Vaccines help the body’s immune system to recognize and fight pathogens like viruses or bacteria; they protect against more than 25 debilitating or life-threatening diseases, including measles, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, meningitis, influenza, tetanus, typhoid and cervical cancer.

Vaccines prevent around 3 million deaths worldwide every year.

Why the concern about vaccination?

Vaccination coverage is the best indicator of the level of protection a population will have against vaccine-preventable communicable diseases. As the level of uptake decreases the risk of local epidemics, or the return of once eradicated diseases, rises.

A worry is that many more illnesses, disabilities and deaths would occur without vaccines! For example:

Diphtheria causes a sore throat which develops into a thickened coating, making it hard to breathe or swallow, and killing one in five chid that contract it.

Polio causes flu-type symptoms that can progress muscle weakness or paralysis of the limbs, in some cases up to 40 years after the initial infection appeared to clear

Measles causes a high fever, rash, and can progress to pneumonia, encephalitis (an infection of the brain), blindness or death.

Why do I need to be vaccinated?

Having a vaccine benefits the whole community through ‘herd immunity’. If enough people are vaccinated, it is harder for the disease to spread to those people who cannot have vaccines. For example, people who are gravely ill or have a weakened immune system.

WHO recommend on a national basis at least 95% of children be immunised against vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD) to ensure sufficient protection.

What are the side effects of vaccination?

All medicines can cause side effects, but vaccines are among the very safest. Side effects from a vaccine are usually minor and temporary, the most common side effects include soreness at the injection site or fever and feeling unwell.

It is rare for anyone to have a serious allergic reaction to a vaccination. However, if this does happen, it usually happens within minutes and can be promptly dealt with by the person who vaccinates you or your child (who is trained to deal with allergic reactions).

It is necessary to weigh up the risks of any short-term side effects against the long-term consequences that may arise from contracting certain diseases.

Vaccination protects you and your children against potentially severe ill health.

With the influenza (flu) season imminent and the uncertainty of how the COVID-19 pandemic will steer, the public are advised to take advantage of the flu vaccine when offered.

Influenza is a highly infectious disease with symptoms including fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, and joint or muscle aches; symptoms on par with the COVID-19 infection. Even those who are normally in good health are left feeling quite unwell with the flu; this is exacerbated for those with lowered immunity. Research shows that globally up to 650,000 people die each year due to flu or flu-associated complications.

Read more on vaccines and vaccination in Gibraltar at: healthygibraltar.org/infections/vaccinations/

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