As described by the WHO, immunization is the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine. Vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to protect the person against subsequent infection or disease. In simpler terms, vaccination is your best shot for health. Therefore, for a healthier life it is recommended that everyone should be vaccinated according to schedule advised by their family doctors.
Despite knowing the importance of immunization and easy accessibility of vaccines, people often refuse or deny to vaccinate themselves or their children. “Vaccine hesitancy” is, therefore, the biggest challenge faced by the healthcare system in achieving optimal immunization among masses. It is evident that vaccine hesitancy negatively impacts on vaccine uptake rates and the performance of national immunization programs of the country. The UN health agency reported that globally, one in five children still do not receive routine life-saving immunizations, and an estimated 1.5 million children die each year of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.
As per the WHO, denying or refusing vaccination against any disease not only increases the vulnerability of an individual for that particular disease, but it also widens the immunization gap in the population. Vaccine hesitancy is a complex issue that is influenced by multiple factors such as misinformation, complacency, convenience, confidence, and fear of needles. Myths associated with vaccines such as vaccination of women leading to infertility is also a major reason for denying vaccinations, particularly among the rural population.
To overcome these issues, WHO, in the recently published editorial recommended the healthcare organizations to focus on increasing the understanding of vaccine hesitancy, its determinants, and challenges among the lay population. The recommendations also focused on usage of evidence-based practices that are required in dealing with the structures and organizational capacity to decrease hesitancy and increase acceptance of vaccines at the global, national and local levels. Sharing of lessons learned and effective practices from various countries and settings as well as the development, validation and implementation of new tools to address hesitancy were also recommended.
This World immunization day, it is suggestive that pro-active measures should be taken by various health care organizations for increasing acceptance of vaccines, such as:
- Using effective communication to dispel fears among people
- One‑on‑one or group interaction between health‑workers and people to resolve their doubts, and myths related to vaccination
- Organizing number of immunization session for generating awareness about health benefits of vaccination
- Bringing together interactive activities that engage groups of members and society members to give the guidelines related to immunization
- Spreading awareness among people about new vaccine availability, its benefits
- Encouraging people to bring their children for detailed check-up and give vaccine
- Involving staff members and nurses of health care institutions, primary centers, family‑clinics to maintain the immunization record of the patients and provide them when needed
Immunization is one of the most important preventive health measures, responsible for saving millions of lives. Hence, addressing the concerns of vaccine-hesitancy must be a priority for all the stakeholders of the healthcare industry. So, this world immunization day, each one of us should take it as our moral responsibility to spread awareness among people about the vaccine and to debunk fear/myths associated with vaccination.
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