With an outbreak of measles in at least two provinces, and the H1N1 virus scare, vaccination has become an important topic.
Immunisation has led to some serious childhood illnesses being eradicated in a generation. But a combination of complacency and dodgy scientific opinions about side-effects has led to a drop in immunisation, and the return of those diseases.
Why should children be vaccinated?
Vaccines are one of the most important strategies available to help prevent infectious diseases. In the past, before vaccines, many children died or had severe complications following infections. Vaccines have helped to eliminate certain diseases (such as smallpox) and made others very uncommon (such as measles and polio).
The more people are vaccinated, the more successful the vaccination programme will be, since there will be fewer people available for the organism to infect. When fewer people are infected, there will be less transmission of the organism, and hopefully the disease can be eradicated. This obviously only holds true for organisms that affect humans exclusively.
Some organisms that cause infection can be found in various wild or domestic animals as well (sometimes without causing disease in these animals). In such cases it would be much more difficult to eradicate the organism completely, but vaccination would still prevent humans from getting the disease.
How do vaccines work?
Routine immunisation schedule
(Health24, October 2009)