26 August 2015
Here at CoMO, we say – get vaccinated against meningitis. Why is vaccination so important though? Well, apart from protecting you against a very nasty disease-the more people vaccinated, the healthier the population!
Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘herd protection’, or perhaps ‘herd immunity’ as it was formally known? Herd Protection is when a significant number of the population who are vaccinated provide a measure of protection for those individuals who have NOT developed immunity to a specific, contagious disease.
Meningitis vaccinations generate herd protection by reducing the spread of the bacteria that are responsible for causing the disease. So, the higher the proportion of people who are immunised, the harder it is for the bacteria causing the disease to transmit to susceptible individuals.
Herd protection is proven to effectively stop the spread of disease in a community and it is particularly crucial, because it helps to provide protection for those who cannot be vaccinated, such as, children who are too young, pregnant women and those who are too ill to receive vaccinations (e.g: cancer patients). Once enough people are vaccinated, these people will then help to REDUCE the spread of disease.
Still feeling a little confused at the concept of Herd Protection? If so, then take a look at this link to a short YouTube video that succinctly summarises the theory.
If we can encourage people to get vaccinated at every stage of their lives, or to put it more scientifically, if we can encourage Life-Course Immunisation, then we can truly achieve something positive. Currently, we’re all told to do regular exercise and eat our 5-a-day, but here at CoMO we simply don’t think that this is enough to ensure that our health doesn’t deteriorate as we grow older.
Today in the UK alone, there are over 10 million people aged over 65…and this number is growing. By 2050 the UK government expects there to be around 19 million older people living in the UK. Coincidentally, an ageing population is not purely a UK phenomenon, Europe is noticing a radical change too.
The European Commission recently published a report noting that, today, the average EU population has a greater number of over 65 year olds than ever seen before. Surely then it is no surprise that the EU has now been tasked with finding ways to deal with the challenges of this change in demographics.
So what are these challenges? Well, the need to work longer, as evidenced by the increasing retirement age, and if we have to work for longer, then we have to stay healthy for longer too. How does CoMO believe we can encourage our citizens to stay healthy for longer? By continuing to inform everyone about how important it is to do regular exercise and to eat well …and, of course, we also say: keep your vaccinations up to date!
A changing demographic will have undoubtedly had an impact on healthcare services. For example, statistics from the UK show that retired households rely on the NHS almost twice as much as non-retired households! It is time we faced the fact that population demographics are changing and we need to find new and more sustainable ways to look after our citizens; one being: Life-Course vaccinations.
Clearly, through the concept of herd protection, a Life-Course Immunisation programme is one way forward, because it ensures maximum protection from vaccine-preventable diseases for populations. Such a programme will also lead to a population less reliant on its struggling healthcare services. So, Life-Course Immunisation is a win-win.
If you want nothing more than to see yourself and your nearest and dearest live healthy, long and fulfilling lives: choose vaccination. The more people vaccinated, the less likely anyone is to contract such a dreadful disease, such as meningitis or other vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is one of the wisest choices an individual can make in ensuring that, not only the individual lives a healthy and fulfilling life, but that this individual’s loved ones live healthy and fulfilling lives too.
Will you join us then in choosing Life-Course Immunisation? We really hope so, as together we can protect not only ourselves, but those who we care most about too.
How Contagious Is Meningitis? Available at: http://www.healthline.com/health/how-contagious-meningitis#BacterialMeningitis6
What is herd immunity? Vaccines Today. Available at: http://www.vaccinestoday.eu/vaccines/what-is-herd-immunity/
Natalie is a recent graduate from the University of Birmingham, where she studied International Relations with French. She has particular expertise in the international political economy and its relation with international healthcare organisations. She is an intern at CoMO, where she is currently working on the Life-Course Immunisation Initiative.