“We’re very hopeful. We’re very encouraged,” Professor G. Ian Humphreys said of the vaccine mandate in last Friday’s BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
Coveny Burella, vice president for public health at the Alliance for Vaccine Research (AVR), also lent his support to the measure. “There’s already a massive wave of interest from many states,” she said.
Why is mandating vaccinating against a disease so important? Professor Ian Humphreys explained.
“We know that current UK and European efforts are not enough in terms of reaching to populations where it’s difficult to vaccinate. Currently, less than 20% of the population is protected by vaccination. That’s a real problem,” he said.
According to Professor Humphreys, a major focus for the next few years will be on the poor. “There are a lot of health problems in developing countries. Part of the problem is that we don’t know how well vaccines work. So, we can only do as much as the resources are available,” he said.
Coveny Burella believes that this could be helped with more research on the frequency of vaccination compared to non-vaccinated populations.
Professor Humphreys said that this will inevitably lead to more demand for vaccination. “Vaccination is the only way to get immunity against many infectious diseases. Being vaccinated can protect you from any disease that might emerge in a given situation,” he said.
“There will inevitably be more demand in the future to vaccine. If we don’t start now, it will be extremely difficult to achieve the kind of herd immunity that we need to keep many diseases down.”
The only substantial hurdle preventing universal vaccination, according to Mrs Burella, is the money. “The vaccine doesn’t come cheap. It’s an expensive, complex product. Without the funding from government, it’s very hard to get vaccine to some of the very vulnerable populations that we need it for,” she said.
In the UK, one of the country’s largest campaign groups for vaccination is the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
“Vaccination for children is becoming increasingly important for safety and public health. During the past decade, we have seen more and more youngsters put at risk by the flu – a deadly disease that could easily be prevented,” added Dr Kate Stevenson, a senior physician at the NSPCC.
She explained that a vaccine for influenza doesn’t come cheaply, and Britain is currently in the middle of an austerity budget.
“We work to make sure all children have access to vaccinations, but this is proving increasingly difficult as government budgets are squeezed. As a result, a vaccine for flu is not currently available, and there is a serious risk that more children will fall ill or die as a result,” she said.