Immunisation

Immunisation in the developed world

In the developed world there are a number of immunisations available to combat diseases; most are given to children at an early age. Immunisation programmes in developing countries have drastically reduced the number of cases of people suffering from a number of different illnesses and have, in some cases, completely eradicated the presence of certain diseases.

Immunisation in the developing world

In contrast to the developed world, millions of people in developing countries die from preventable diseases each year: this is primarily due to a lack of vaccinations and a poor standard of general health care and sanitation.

Preventable diseases

In the developed world, babies are given a number of vaccinations, which protect against various diseases; in the developing world these vaccinations are not widely available and consequently, millions of people are dying from preventable diseases each year; examples of these illnesses are outlined below:

Measles

Measles is a respiratory illness, which is caused by a virus: it is highly contagious. A healthy body will usually be able to combat measles without the need for medication; if the body is weak measles may cause pneumonia, croup and infections in the ears and eyes. The incidence of measles in the U.K is currently increasing due to the number of people choosing not to have their children vaccinated; however, the number of cases is still extremely low. Commonly, babies in the developed world are given the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) immunisation in order to protect them from contracting any of the three illnesses.

In the developing world, the measles vaccination is not widely available and consequently the number of measles-related deaths is relatively high, with the disease attributed to 10% of deaths in children under the age of 5.

Tackling measles

The World Health Organisation has set out initiatives to ensure all children are vaccinated against measles by the year 2010; the number of global cases is falling and it is hoped that measles will soon be eradicated for good.

Diphtheria

Diphtheria is caused by bacterial infection and can be very serious; symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and a painful throat. After thousands of deaths in the earlier part of the 20th Century, a diphtheria vaccine was introduced in 1941 and has become part of routine immunisation programmes for all babies in the U.K; consequently, the number of cases is now extremely low.

In the developing world, diphtheria is still common, especially in children. Every year many children die as a result of diphtheria; these deaths could be prevented by the introduction of an effective immunisation programme. Charities, health organisations and world leaders are currently working to establish these programmes in the developing world.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a respiratory illness which usually affects the lungs and can be fatal. In the developed world the number of cases of tuberculosis has been steadily falling for many years now and the illness is now rare. Until recently most teenagers received the BCG vaccination which protects against TB; the disease is now so rare that the BCG has been withdrawn from the routine immunisation programme in the U.K. People who are travelling to areas where TB is common may still require a vaccination.

In the developing world, tuberculosis is still rife and contributes to over a million deaths each year; those suffering from HIV and AIDS are particularly vulnerable to tuberculosis. Immunisation programmes, similar to those in place in developed countries, could dramatically reduce the number of cases of TB in the developing world.

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a viral disease which is spread through infected mosquitoes. It is prevalent in South America and parts of Africa. Yellow fever can be very serious and often results in death; the World Health Organisation estimates that over 20,000 people lose their lives to yellow fever each year.

In developing countries, those who are travelling to affected areas are offered a yellow fever vaccine prior to their departure; this vaccination is extremely effective. In the developing world, this immunisation is not widely available, which means thousands of people are dying each year as a result of not having the necessary preventive treatment. Initiatives launched by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF in the late 1990’s are working to ensure that all children born in affected areas are vaccinated against yellow fever; this immunisation is currently being given to children at the same time as the measles injection at the age of 9-12 months.

The future

World health organisations, charitable trusts and leaders from developed countries are working hard to introduce routine immunisation programmes into the developing world; currently, initiatives are being established and the initial results look promising. Their work will continue and it is hoped that many preventable illnesses will, one day, be eradicated for good.