Is vaccination an overrated disease fighter?

Written by A. d

People around the world believe in vaccinations. But aren’t they a countermeasure to public health challenges?

According to the World Health Organization, vaccines, including simple ones such as those against diphtheria, have been a major factor in keeping our overpopulation under control throughout history.

In 1981, when Japan experienced a case of Ebola, vaccines against various diseases were suggested as the answer — some of which were stockpiled on site. Today, some medical experts consider this to be an understatement.

“If you think about it, for every disease that is human- or animal-borne, there is a [vaccine] that can control it. You’ll see it,” says Zeev Shenker, an expert in infectious diseases at Oxford University in England.

New technologies such as sequencing, immunotherapy and immunoglobulin, which can identify signs and treat Ebola or the monkeypox virus, are bolstering traditional approaches, leading to a realisation that vaccines are not a stand-alone solution.

“The use of diagnostics and vaccines are inextricably linked,” says Shenker. “We have to make our vaccines stronger and better for the market — we need more cash injection. So I think that vaccines as a diagnostic tool will grow faster.”

According to Shenker, natural immunity is the key to having an immunotherapeutic approach.

A vaccine prevents disease by encouraging the body to produce antibodies. However, infected persons may be immune to vaccines because of past exposure, research has suggested.

“Until the vaccine is in the [possible] environment, you will never know how much you’re protected,” says Shenker. “Having some level of immunity depends on the fact that the person has been vaccinated before. … You can really protect people against one or two diseases because you have some residual immunity in the system.”

However, around the world, a growing number of countries are raising questions over whether vaccines are effective when not a person is severely ill from a disease.

In 2010, the WHO wrote a scientific report stating that certain antiviral drugs were being administered to too many people. In one case, the report stated, more than 70% of patients receiving treatments for hepatitis A had no infectious components in their blood. Other cases were reported where such drugs were administered to children in developing countries.

“No one thought these drugs were going to prevent this disease in babies with no infectious particles,” says Shenker. “You could put any vaccines in a vaccine patch and just make them one-size-fits-all.”

Even when a vaccine is developed, you may not be able to immunize people of a certain age group. Some studies have noted that children with bowel disease have a low immunity against certain vaccine components.

Moreover, experts believe vaccination is a public health tool, not a one-stop shop that can eradicate diseases. For example, in immunizing humans against polio, there is a one-time tickling effect that may make the disease more treatable. However, experts also note that measles vaccination rates continue to decline in parts of Europe — suggesting that there are problems beyond the vaccine.

Leave a Comment