With a pandemic seizing the entire world, the importance of vaccines has grown all the more apparent. Besides working at the individual level, vaccines help preserve the well-being of the community through the concept of herd immunity. Vaccinations become especially important for subpopulations of individuals that are particularly susceptible to disease. The elderly, juvenile, and otherwise immunocompromised can often need several rounds of immunization to better guard against infection.
“Vaccination is a tool that gives our body a greater capacity for immunological defence,” says José María Martín Moreno, a professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Valencia. Vaccines can protect against microorganisms that cause diseases—be they bacterial or viral. “They help our immune system to better detect them, control them and minimize their effect,” adds Dr. Martin Moreno. At-risk individuals face the added challenge of battling additional infections with already–weakened immune systems. Vaccines can help lighten the load and reduce the risk of contracting other diseases that might lead to complications.
Being a powerful preventative tool, vaccines are recommended by medical professionals for a wide variety of conditions in both children and the elderly. “Their immunological level is lower than that of a normal person, who would also benefit from such training of their immune system to respond to the challenge of external invasion of microorganisms,” says Dr. Martín Moreno, who advises that vaccination for the elderly take first place. People with chronic conditions like HIV or cardiac diseases, or even those living in nursing homes and hospitals greatly require the protection afforded by vaccinations.
Ángel Gil de Miguel, a professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, is of the same opinion. According to him, vaccination can help older individuals who otherwise can find it particularly hard to mount a defence against pneumonia-causing microbes.
The III Vaccine Forum, organized by Wecare-u, Fundamed, and GSK, proposed a solution to the logistical issue of tracking vaccinations for the millions of folks who make up these at-risk communities— a registry. Through such a system, physicians can easily and correctly assess a patient’s vaccine history. Only with a true picture of their coverage can improvements be addressed.
Pilar Arrazola, head of the Preventive Medicine Service of the University Hospital 12 de Octubre, in Madrid, says it is essential “to have precise denominators that allow adequate follow-up of patients at risk among all the professionals who treat these people.” Oftentimes, verifying a patient’s medical history can be difficult if they have been treated by different doctors.
While health authorities have published recommendations to improve the vaccination scenario in the country they need to be made widely available, says Dr. Gil de Miguel. The process can also benefit from sharing of vaccination best practices between health centres, he adds. Thus, experts not only advocate for the greater distribution of information but also training on vaccinating at-risk groups in order to improve vaccination implementation.