Austrian Vaccination Day 2015: why are “forgotten” diseases making a comeback and what can we do about it?
(Vienna, 14th January 2015) Experts are warning of increasing vaccine fatigue in Austrian society. Reduced vaccination rates in the population mean that diseases previously thought to be beaten or eliminated are coming back. This affects children and adults alike. “For some years now we have seen a continual increase in cases of diseases such as measles, rubella and whooping cough,” said Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, scientific director of Austrian Vaccination Day and head of the Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine at MedUni Vienna, at a press conference in Vienna on Wednesday.
The motto of Vaccination Day 2015 is “from knowledge to action” and it is an opportunity for experts from across Europe to discuss important subjects such as vaccine fatigue and the fear of side effects, as well as to find ways of counteracting increased scepticism about vaccines. It will also see the launch of Austria’s updated vaccination plan and presentations on the latest developments in the immunology sector, such as the meningitis B vaccine and the nasal influenza vaccine. During the press conference to mark the occasion, the Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists will also launch the new “vaccines” element of their Apo-App, as part of a drive to increase immunisation rates.
Vaccines offer double protection: for ourselves and for others
Measles, for example, is often trivialised as a harmless children’s disease yet it is highly infectious and can have serious complications for adults as well as children. In Wiedermann-Schmidt’s view “successful vaccination programmes in recent decades mean that we no longer see diseases like measles as dangerous. Many people are now more afraid of possible side effects of the vaccinations than of the diseases themselves.”
The head of the Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine at MedUni Vienna puts the emphasis on information: “Exaggerated fears of vaccines or of ingredients like aluminium result in people exposing themselves to a far greater risk. It is down to research to provide further evidence of why vaccination is an effective approach, but also down to the medical profession, pharmacists and individual healthcare workers to raise awareness – this is why Vaccination Day will also help to counter the most common myths about immunisation. Our aim is to boost vaccination rates because vaccines offer double protection: for ourselves and for others,” says Wiedermann-Schmidt.
Austrian Medical Association: appeal to “immunological freeloaders”
“More and more people are rejecting vaccinations on the grounds that ‘everyone else’ is vaccinated anyway,” warns Rudolf Schmitzberger, vaccination spokesperson at the Austrian Medical Association. He says that one of any doctor’s duties is to ensure an adequate level of immunity, as well as to provide sufficient factual information. He does not rule out appealing to a sense of responsibility: “Immunological freeloaders are jeopardising not just their own health, but also that of others, especially the weak.” Thus a high percentage of whooping cough and pneumococcal infections in newborns result from infection by adults. Conversely, children generally catch influenza at school or kindergarten and then spread the illness to their parents and grandparents. “Thanks to the programme of free vaccinations for children and immunisations available from a wide range of sources – from schools to doctors’ surgeries to the public sphere – there is outstanding provision in Austria and we should make use of it,” says Schmitzberger.
Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists: personal vaccine records on the Apo-App
Vaccinations are highly effective and cost-effective ways of preventing disease, but people still need to be actively kept up to date. It is easy to access Austria’s 1,350 pharmacies, and this makes them ideally suited to spread the vaccination message. “We run a wide range of public health and vaccination campaigns, which help to raise people’s awareness of the importance of immunisation,” says Christian Müller-Uri, Vice-President of the Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists.
The Chamber of Pharmacists sees room for improvement when it comes to vaccine records. This is why the Apo-App, already downloaded over 300,000 times, has been expanded to include a “vaccines” element. As of today, every user can now keep track of his or her personal vaccination data electronically without the need to publish it on the Net. The Apo-App explains every vaccination and records every vaccine, with special emphasis on simplicity and usability.
Austrian Vaccination Day 2015: “from knowledge to action”
Vaccination Day 2015, with its slogan “from knowledge to action”, is Austria’s trail-blazing immunology event for doctors and pharmacists and is being staged by the Austrian Academy of Physicians (Österreichische Akademie der Ärzte GmbH) in cooperation with the Medical University of Vienna, the Austrian Medical Association, Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists, the Austrian Society of Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine and the Austrian League for Preventive Medicine:
• Date: 17th January 2015
• Place: Aula der Wissenschaften, Wollzeile 27a, 1010 Vienna
• Programme: www.arztakademie.at/impftag/