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Austrian Vaccination Day 2016: Focus on personalised vaccination

(Vienna, 13-01-2016) The previously applicable, general vaccination strategy of "one vaccination suits all" will no longer be feasible for all groups of people in a demographically rapidly changing population in the future. For this reason - more than ever - it will be necessary to develop personalised strategies and vaccinate people quite specifically, adapted to possible individual immunological or genetic changes. "We are at the start of a new era", states Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, Scientific Manager of the Austrian Vaccination Day and Manager of the Institute for Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine of the MedUni Vienna, on Wednesday during a press conference in Vienna.

Accordingly, the Austrian Vaccination next Saturday at the Austria Center Vienna (16 January, 08:00 - 17:00 h) is headed by the motto "Personalised medicine - personalised vaccinations?" International and local top experts shall speak on and discuss this topic in interactive forums. 

Personalised vaccination initially means to filter out risk groups, emphasises Wiedermann-Schmidt. These include premature babies, who have a much better chance of survival today, older people, but also people treated with biologics - e.g. for autoimmune disorders such as rheumatism or cancer and skin diseases, but also the health care personnel in order to avoid becoming one of the risk groups for infections. Wiedermann-Schmidt: "What do we know about the response to vaccinations or the immunisation of these risk groups? When do I have to change the vaccination strategy - and how? These are the new issues."

The options for a specialised vaccination strategy are diverse: it could be sensible to vaccinate "doubly", with altered vaccination intervals, with a serum with stronger adjuvants or other to choose other than the usual intramuscular "vaccination routes". In practice, this could mean: if a person is administered a quadruple vaccination, i.e. diphtheria/tetanus/polio/whooping cough, it is advisable to perform a vaccination control soon thereafter and to assess "whether the vaccination has even been effective". Even in the healthy population, we discover one to ten percent who are not able to build up sufficient protection after the vaccination. These people are called "non-responders". Under certain therapies or in case of chronic diseases it can therefore be assumed that this percentage is much higher. If the vaccination has not been effective, one has to reconsider the strategy.

For research, this will mean in the future that new vaccines have to be developed which are also quite specifically adapted to the requirements of these risk groups: "New technologies, such as transcriptomics, will be applied to identify certain risk groups", explains Wiedermann-Schmidt. In the process, biomarkers for the recognition of genetic or immunological changes are to be found in the blood, which are responsible for a person becoming a "non-responder". "All these measures shall result in the fact that the affected persons can be sure to be vaccinated individually and not "according to the book." Nonetheless, it continues to be important for the effective protection of the masses to ensure that the vaccination quota among the population is high. "Because those participating in vaccination provide double protection: for themselves and for others."

Personalised vaccinations are an important step toward the protection of the masses
"due to 'personalised medicine' it is now possible to vaccinate also those groups which were previously excluded from vaccinations due to their weak immune system, such as cancer patients or young infants", states the Vaccine Consultant of the Österreichische Ärztekammer (ÖÄK) (Austrian Chamber of Physicians), Rudolf Schmitzberger. Thus, it would be a clear misunderstanding to consider the option of personalised vaccination a free ticket for "immunological free riders". It refers to people who rely on the fact that others are vaccinated and who themselves only partake in those vaccinations which seem relevant to them personally. Personalised vaccinations are therefore by no means in competition with the "protection of the masses". Personalised vaccinations have the objective to extinguish diseases which are transferred from human to human or to curb them to the extent that also non-immunised persons in a population are protected. Mass immunity is still one of the most important social-medical objectives which also pursue the free children vaccination program in accordance with the motto: adults protect the children, children protect the adults.

Information at the chemist
Vaccination does not equal injection: oral vaccinations, intranasal vaccinations, intradermal vaccinations or intramuscular vaccinations can be administered, depending on supply and personal preferences. Objective information regarding vaccinations and trustful communication with the customer are the essential cornerstones to increase the vaccination coverage in Austria.  Due to the low-threshold access, the 1,360 chemists in Austria become an important information hub, where vaccination passes are checked and vaccination gaps are discovered. "At the chemist, we advise young and old regarding which vaccinations are important and sensible and take on the role of "translator" between science and practice", so Christian Müller-Uri, Vice President of the Austrian Chamber of Chemists. An individual, electronic vaccination pass can be established at the free-of-charge Apo-App.

The Austrian Vaccination Day 2016: "Personalised medicine - personalised vaccinations?"
The Austrian Vaccination Day is the largest, directional vaccination event for physicians and chemists in Austria and is organised by the Österreichische Akademie der Ärzte GmbH in cooperation with Medizinische Universität Wien, Österreichische Ärztekammer, Österreichische Apothekerkammer, Österreichische Gesellschaft für Kinder- Jugendheilkunde and Österreichische Liga für Präventivmedizin:
•    Time: Saturday, 16  January 2016, 8-17 h
•    Location: Austria Center Vienna, Bruno-Kreisky-Platz 1, 1220 Vienna
•    Application and information: www.impftag.at