The first Global Vaccination Summit took place on Thursday in Brussels, organised by the World Health Organisation and the European Commission. *audio and video in Luxembourgish
There are still around 20 million children worldwide who cannot be vaccinated, due to the health systems in their countries. Every year an estimated 1.5 million children die because of this.
According to the World Health Organisation, vaccinations can save between two and three million lives a year. Despite this, scepticism towards vaccines has grown in recent years. It is not quite the case in Luxembourg, said Dr Jean-Claude Schmit, chief medical officer in the Grand Duchy, but it is on the rise in other countries.
In 2018 a study was conducted on children aged between 25 and 30 months, the age where many have received their basic vaccinations. The majority were correctly vaccinated, with 75% of children perfectly vaccinated in the Grand Duchy, and 90% with the basic vaccinations. In Germany, the rate fell to 65%.
Measles in particular have caused issues in recent months for certain countries, even affecting Luxembourg earlier this year. Around 21 cases were identified, leading to fears of an epidemic. As a reaction to this occurrence, the need for vaccination was once again brought to the forefront of the public mind.
Vaccine sceptics on the rise abroad
Scepticism towards vaccines has become a topic of importance in recent years, even if it is just a minority who express concerns about the medicines. Dr Schmit said there were two types of sceptics - the first have made a profession of their scepticism, giving conferences and attempting to persuade the public of their mission, utterly convinced by their beliefs. The second group is made up of parents, concerned for the welfare of their children. Dr Schmit said he felt it was extremely important to understand these concerns and to speak to these parents to help alleviate their worries.
With the rise of false information spreading over social media, Facebook agreed at the summit to block any incorrect information regarding vaccines.
As with all medicines, vaccines can have side effects, said Dr Schmit, arguing that these were rare and severe side effects occurred in 1 of 100,000 cases. The risk of side effects should be carefully considered and weighed against the benefits of vaccination. Dr Schmit also pointed out the number of people suffering severe illness as a result of not receiving vaccines.
The time for flu vaccines is fast approaching. 70,000 people took advantage of the vaccine in 2018, more than ever before, but stocks could not keep up with the demand. For 2019, the pharmaceutical industry has taken measures to ensure the deficit does not happen again.