How vaccines could save lives during Covid-19 times

With Covid-19 in the global spotlight, the importance of vaccination has never been greater.

Immunisation against vaccine-preventable diseases is essential to protect both children and adults, and providing vaccination services is one of the most effective, affordable tools to save people’s lives – that’s according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says immunisation services in the Covid-19 pandemic must continue. Failure to do so may result in a resurgence of preventable diseases such as measles and polio. New disease outbreaks could overwhelm health systems already battling the impacts of Covid-19.

As Covid-19 continues to spread, people are urged not to leave children vulnerable to disease and let the pandemic put their lives further at risk. Immunisation is an essential service, even during this time, and is free in all public health facilities in South Africa.

Adults also need immunisations to help prevent getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in poor health, missed work, medical bills, and not being able to care for family.

“Although there is no vaccine for Covid-19 yet, there are effective vaccines available for other diseases,” says Dr Nasiha Soofie, Medical Head at Sanofi Pasteur Vaccines.

“Vaccination is the only way to protect people and communities against diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, and certain types of pneumonia and diarrhoea that can be fatal.”

“Immunisation prevents unnecessary loss of life and protects communities and healthcare systems that are already battling the effects of Covid-19,” says Dr Soofie.

“People of all ages need vaccinations to stay healthy. It is important to prevent vaccination delays as these missed visits could impact your child’s health, or your own. Vaccines provide important protection against infections and diseases and protect people of all ages from many serious illnesses. Our public and private health facilities have guidelines in place to care for patients in a safe manner without exposing them to the risk of Covid-19 infection.”

During the lockdown period, immunisation visits should continue uninterrupted. It is important to remember that in order to be effective, some vaccines may require more than one dose for babies, teens and even adults. Missed visits could impact a person’s health, which is why it is necessary to keep to vaccination schedules that are supplied by your doctor or clinic.

“Vaccines can prevent death and suffering,” says Dr Soofie. “They are also cost-effective and reduce time off work and lost productivity costs caused by illness. By getting vaccinated we not only help protect ourselves but also those around us by making it more difficult for an infectious disease to spread. This is known as ‘herd immunity’ and is yet another example of the unique public health benefits of vaccination.”

Few measures in public health can compare with the impact of vaccines. Vaccinations have reduced disease, disability, and death from a variety of infectious diseases.

The only human disease ever eradicated, smallpox, was eradicated using a vaccine, and a second, polio, is near eradication, also using vaccines Vaccines not only provide individual protection for people who are vaccinated, but they can also provide community protection by reducing the spread of disease within a population.

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