The European Immunization Week (EIW), an initiative of WHO European Region, takes place this year on 24-30 April 2019. The member states join their efforts by adopting a common motto “Protected together #Vaccines work” to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of vaccines to the global community as vital to prevent diseases and protect the lives of people of all ages, as an individual right and responsibility. At the same time, the member States celebrate the true “Vaccine Heroes“, who contribute in so many ways to individual and collective immunity. Health workers who administer vaccines, parents who choose vaccination to protect their children, and everyone who seeks evidence-based information and passes it on to empower others, each one in their own way enhance vaccination as a health protection shield.
Immunization is one of the most important and effective preventive interventions in the field of medicine and an outstanding achievement of the 20th century in the field of Public Health. With the implementation of vaccination programs around the world, almost 2-3 million deaths are averted every year. Nevertheless, there are still nearly 20 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world today, while more than 1.5 million children under 5 years of age die from vaccine preventable diseases. From From infancy to adulthood, immunization protects against diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, rubella, mumps, varicella and herpes zoster, meningococcal and pneumococcal infections, gastroenteritis from rotavirus, hepatitis A and B, HPV infections and influenza.
Immunization as an act of individual responsibility brings significant social and economic benefits. In particular, the population’s increased vaccination coverage through herd immunity provides indirect protection to those who have not been vaccinated. The wide application of vaccination programs contributes to direct cost reduction resulting from the illnesses treatment as well as indirect costs reduction associated with productivity loss.
Vaccination is not just for children. Expanding vaccination coverage with booster doses in adolescents aims to protect them over time. Vaccines also provide protection to adults, mainly those who belong in high risk groups because of their age, occupation, lifestyle or health status.
Healthcare personnel (medical, nurses and other staff) is at increased risk of exposure to infectious vaccine preventable diseases while at the same time endanger their patients’ health, especially those in the so-called high-risk groups for serious diseases and/or death (eg, newborns and chronic underlying diseases). For these reasons, immunization is recommended to healthcare workers with the aim of protecting theirselves and hospitalized patients.
Our country has recently received a mass influx of refugees and migrants. With the capture of tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in our country, a new situation has emerged. In this context, a vaccination program with priority vaccines is implemented, according to the National Immunization Committee, and children residing in Points of Care for refugees/migrants accommodation are vaccinated. The program includes vaccination for 10 diseases in the form of mass vaccination under the coordination and supervision of the Secretary General for Public Health of the Ministry of Health.
Greece has one of the most contemporary immunization programs for children, adolescents and adults. The vaccines recommended in the National Immunization program for Children / Adolescents / Adults are provided free of charge.
The recent measles outbreak in our country as well as the increased number of severe influenza infections in ICUs and deaths during the current influenza period, of which a very low percentage has been vaccinated, underline the need to intensify public awareness of the value of vaccination. A key component is the common attitude of healthcare professionals and the continuous encouragement of the population to comply with the recommendations of the National Immunization Program.