News
Vaccines that work for all
24 April 2020

Today is the first day of the World Health Organization's ‘World Immunisation Week'. William Murray looks at the details for commonspace.eu

As the world faces a health crisis like never before, the importance of vaccines and immunisation has never been clearer. Today (24/04) marks the beginning of the World Health Organization's World Immunisation Week, which seeks to bring attention to the importance of vaccination around the world. Vaccines contain small parts of diseases, and when introduced to the body, stimulate its immune system to produce the antibodies that lead to immunity. Since their development in the last century, vaccines are credited with having led to the elimination of many formerly common diseases, such as polio, and saving countless lives.

The theme of this year's campaign is ‘#VaccinesWork for All' and will focus on "how vaccines - and the people who develop, deliver and receive them - are heroes by working to protect the health of everyone, everywhere" [1]. The main objectives of this year's campaign are to:

• "Demonstrate the value of vaccines for the health of children, communities and the world.
• Show how routine immunization is the foundation for strong, resilient health systems and universal health coverage.
• Highlight the need to build on immunization progress while addressing gaps, including through increased investment in vaccines and immunization." [2]

Despite the near-universal scientific acceptance of the benefits of immunisation, there remains a small but vocal community of anti-vaccination campaigners (‘anti-vaxers'). These groups and individuals dispute the benefits of vaccination, with many purporting ill-founded links between vaccination and autism [3] and that the global push for immunisation is a conspiracy fuelled by profit-driven drug companies [4]. Whilst experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have openly listed vaccination as one of the top-ten great public health achievements of the last century [5], last year, the growth of anti-vaccination narratives prompted the WHO to officially place what it calls ‘vaccine hesitancy' in its list of the ten greatest threats to global health [6]. In the face of overwhelming evidence for the safety and importance of vaccination, the ‘anti-vax' movement has been fuelled by a widely discredited paper by disgraced British former-doctor, Andrew Wakefield [7], and endorsement by certain celebrity figures, such as actors Jessica Biel and Jim Carrey [8].

In light of the ongoing pandemic, certain anti-vaccine ‘truthers' have gone as far to suggest that COVID-19 itself is a lie to accelerate the uptake of harmful vaccines [9]. However, whilst some campaigners are ‘doubling down' on their narratives, evidence suggests the pandemic has led others to reassess their beliefs. Studies in the UK between March and April have shown a reduction in the number of people that would refuse a vaccine from 7% to 5%, thought to have been prompted by the growing COVID-19 death toll [10]. Last week, the WHO announced that there are 70 different coronavirus vaccines currently under development (three already being tested in human trials), with drug makers attempting to compress the normal 10-15 years it takes for a vaccine to get to a market to just one [11]

We, at commonspace.eu, join the WHO, the scientific community, and the rest of the world in celebrating the hard work done by those seeking new vaccines, and the importance of immunisation, especially during the current crisis.

Source: William Murray, Project Officer and Coordinator at LINKS Europe, for commonspace.eu

Featured Sources:

[1] The WHO - ‘Theme: #VaccinesWork for All': https://www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/world-immunization-week/world-immunization-week-2020/key-messages

[2] The WHO - ‘World Immunization Week 2020': https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2020/04/24/default-calendar/world-immunization-week-2020

[3] CDC - ‘Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism': https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html

[4] STAT - ‘Pharma's tarnished reputation helps fuel the anti-vaccine movement': https://www.statnews.com/2019/02/26/anti-vaccine-movement-pharma-tarnished-reputation/

[5] CDC - ‘Ten Great Public Health Achievements -- United States, 1900-1999': https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00056796.htm

[6] The WHO - ‘Ten threats to global health in 2019': https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019

[7] T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao, Chittaranjan Andrade - ‘The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud': https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136032/

[8] Rolling Stone - ‘A Guide to 17 Anti-Vaccination Celebrities': https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/celebrities-anti-vaxxers-jessica-biel-847779/

[9] Mother Jones - ‘"A Fake Pandemic": Anti-Vaxxers Are Spreading Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories': https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/03/a-fake-pandemic-antivaxxers-are-spreading-coronavirus-conspiracy-theories/

[10] The Guardian - ‘Coronavirus causing some anti-vaxxers to waver, experts say': https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/21/anti-vaccination-community-divided-how-respond-to-coronavirus-pandemic

[11] TIME - ‘70 Coronavirus Vaccines Are Under Development, With 3 in Human Trials, WHO Says': https://time.com/5819887/coronavirus-vaccines-development-who/

 

TOP