Is Immunisation Child Protection?

Latest publication by Julian Savulescu in this week's 'The Lancet Series: The New Decade of Vaccines'.

The Lancet this week launches its latest Series—on the new decade of vaccines. The Series is timed to coincide with the pledging conference for the GAVI Alliance, taking place in London next Monday, June 13. This Series brings together some for the world’s foremost experts in vaccine science to look at what needs to take place to realise the tremendous potential of vaccines during the next decade. The Series consists of five papers, a call to action, and five Comments.

About this issue:
Vaccines are undoubtedly one of the best investments in health. Immunisation programmes have contributed enormously to reducing the burden of infectious diseases, and are responsible for much of the falling rates of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In Dec 2010, global health leaders committed to making the next 10 years, the Decade of Vaccines—to ensure discovery, development, and delivery of lifesaving vaccines globally, especially to the poorest countries. A new Lancet Series on the new decade of vaccines will look at every aspect of this medical technology, including the developments expected over the coming decade and what we can expect from translation of the latest vaccine science. Improving vaccine coverage and financing of both existing and newer vaccines together with how we communicate the benefits of vaccines and ensure public trust and confidence, are also examined.

The issue is freely available online.  No subscription required, but you may need to register to use the website (free) .

Comment piece:
The publication includes a comment piece 'Is Immunisation Child Protection?' by Professor Adam Finn (University of Bristol) and Professor Julian Savulescu.

Savulescu and Finn compare failure to vaccinate with child abuse. They say: “Some parallels can be drawn between immunisation and child protection. The first relates to communication. Child abuse and many vaccine-preventable infections are prevalent but are largely invisible or, at least, not widely known about. Hand in hand with this unawareness, there is a fundamental and widespread lack of understanding of these two areas of child welfare and their complexities.”
They add that the analogy with child abuse is clear when the imminent risk to the child is high without intervention, such as a newborn baby of a woman infected with hepatitis B. It becomes less clear in countries where particular infections are rare—often because of widespread immunisation. In that situation, the actual risk of remaining unimmunized might be quite small.  The authors conclude: “Just as we owe it to our children and their children not to destroy the environment in which they will live, we also owe it to them to pass on an environment in which they can be unexposed to the entirely avoidable risks of many infectious diseases. The moral imperative is clear and the question is not whether to do it, but how.”

Issue available via The Lancet website (free, no subscription required): 

About the Series:
The Lancet commissions Series to highlight clinically important topics and areas of health and medicine often overlooked by mainstream research programmes and other medical publications. Many of the Series have the specific aim of raising the profile of these neglected areas as an advocacy tool to inform health policy and improve human development.

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