Prevention, Not Mitigation
23rd Arpil 2014 - The Indian Express - Pune - EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE
In the light of WHO'S recent declaration on eradication of polio in India, studies tell how vaccination can prevent several other diseases
Two months ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared India a polio-free country. Immunisation played a vital role in achieving this feat. Polio, however, is only one among several diseases which can and has been eradicated. Illnesses such as measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and pneumococcal pneumonia are only a few among many diseases which are far from being eradicated in India.
Creating awareness about immunization should be the key focus in the eradication process as it can help prevent many serious illnesses before their onset. "We have now become polio-free but the percentage of people who are immunized against other diseases is still paltry. Sustained efforts need to be made to spread the information about getting vaccinated against various diseases among people," says Dr Mahesh Lakhe, infectious disease specialist at Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune.
Immunization is an effective way of eradication, as it helps strengthen the body's immunity by building a combative response towards targeted viruses or bacteria. For instance, in the polio vaccine, the polio virus is administered into the body in a weakened (attenuated) or dead state. Once inside the body, the immune system builds a defense in the form of antibodies that remembers the virus and duly wards it off when it is attacked from outside. Immunisation not only saves a person from various diseases but can also eradicate it over time.
One of the most cost-effective, easy and safe ways to fight diseases is through immunisation. While immunisation in children is better known, there is also a need to break the myth that adults do not need to be vaccinated against diseases. "There is a need to understand the importance of immunization as it is one of the most crucial tools to ward off diseases that might harm people of all ages.
Some vaccinations are required by those who are immunologically weak, like the elderly, or uncontrolled diabetics," says Lakhe. Vaccinations are available for adults for influenza (flu), pneumococcal disease, herpes zoster (shingles), human papilloma virus (HPV), pertussis (whooping cough), as well as hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Vaccines for pnemococcal pneumonia and shingles are recommended for people aged above 60.
Immunization is the thrust area of India's National Health Missions under which intensification of routine immunization, eliminating measles and Japanese Encephalitis-related deaths and deaths due to other vaccine-preventable diseases are major focus areas. Creating awareness about immunization, coupled with serious initiatives from public and private healthcare providers, will help in achieving the eradication of a number of diseases.
- Pneumococcal pneumonia
- immune system