European Immunisation Week starts today

Uncertainty and opposition concerning vaccines are challenges to immunisation programmes that risk achieving a high level of protection against vaccine preventable diseases.

That’s why we are using European Immunisation Week (23–29 April) to increase awareness of the need to remove barriers to immunisation in Scotland.

Vaccine hesitancy (a World Health Organization term) is a rapidly evolving issue across Europe that can be associated with access to services, convenience and lack of knowledge.

In Scotland, thanks to efforts of the Scottish Immunisation Programme, we have excellent uptake rates for the vaccines offered to all Scottish babies and children, protecting our most vulnerable people from serious diseases. However, there is lower uptake of some vaccines among other eligible groups across the life course – teenagers, pregnant women and older people. People living in poorer areas, who may be at greater risk of diseases and illnesses that immunisation can prevent, are least likely to take up the offer of vaccines.

Nuala Healy, Organisational Lead for Screening and Immunisation at NHS Health Scotland, said: 

“Improving the reach of accurate and accessible information is our goal. Our information, supported by conversations with health professionals, helps address the information barriers we have identified from speaking to eligible groups. These include side effects, perceived (lack of) seriousness of the disease, service accessibility, and social media coverage.

“Ensuring eligible groups are given clear and correct information about vaccines, their safety and impact is more critical than ever. The role of the health professional cannot be understated.”

NHS Health Scotland provides a range of print and online resources describing what happens at appointments, the benefits of immunisation, side effects and other important information. It includes leaflets in a variety of languages and in easy read format, video clips for relevant target audiences, and the shingles eligibility calculator for people aged 70 years and over.

NHS Health Scotland also hosts and updates the national immunisation website for the public. It is a WHO accredited website with expert reviewed content that is easy to understand. 

In Scotland, April 2018 marks the official start of the 3 year Vaccination Transformation Programme (VTP) which will modernise the delivery of vaccinations, and support the transformation of the role of the GP. Find out more about the Vaccination Transformation Programme.

Follow our Twitter feed this week and the hashtag #VaccinesWork to find out which immunisations are offered at different life stages, evidence of their effectiveness and the information resources available for each stage.

Background

European Immunisation Week is led by the World Health Organization with the objective to increase awareness of the importance of immunisation throughout life to help build and sustain herd immunity in all communities.

Immunisation is one of the most cost effective ways to improve public health. It protects communities against infectious diseases like meningitis, measles, whooping cough and cervical cancer.