4 May 2018
Vaccination is ever more important according to experts
As it turned out at the international conference organised by the UP MS Department of Operational Medicine, the serious infectious diseases could only be quarantined due to vaccination, not finally defeated. The recognised experts of the topic emphasized: in the era of globalisation and mass migration, vaccines are more important than ever.
written by Miklós Stemler
The International Immunisation Round Table, which was the outstanding event of the worldwide Immunisation week in Hungary, was held at the Medical School with prestigious participants, among others with the participation of the World Health Organisation and the National Public Health Institute. The importance of this topic would be hard to overemphasize because immunisation, namely the spreading of vaccination ended the era of severe mass epidemics in the course of the twentieth century. Although such dreaded illnesses as diphtheria, smallpox, and polio are known today only from literary works, it does not mean at all that the fight in these fields has ended. Just the opposite: as the presenters of the round table emphasized, globalization, mass migration and campaigns against vaccination are new, serious challenges.
Dr. István Szilárd, head of the Operational Medicine Migration Health working group, and Ledia Lazeri, head of the World Health Organization’s office in Hungary, analysed the challenges of migration. Besides the much discussed economic, social and cultural aspects, health care is pushed into the background even though people coming from differently developed countries impose difficult tasks on the health care system. Although many unfounded rumours were published in the media about life-threatening diseases entering Europe, the risk is real but it is more ordinary. People coming from countries that in many cases have literally bombed health care systems can be exposed to infectious diseases that are unknown in the more developed countries, which can cause serious problems for the host countries not prepared for these. This does not include refugees and immigrants coming from conflict regions only. While in one part of the neighbouring countries, mainly in Romania and Ukraine vaccination is much lower than in Hungary, citizens of these countries can bring in infectious diseases that have been defeated before; recently on the eastern border many smaller measles epidemics have proven this theory.
The health care system has to prepare for the needs and risks of people coming from different health care cultures and in this field UP plays an important pioneer role on a European level as well. As István Szilárd emphasized, in Pécs hundreds of Hungarian and foreign students get to know the field of migration health every year, uniquely at the continent, not to mention the postgraduate specialist training course in migration health established by the consortium controlled in Pécs. In order to apply the knowledge in practice, there is a great need for international, up-to-date and reliable health care databases in addition to the qualified experts; it is one of the biggest lessons of the migration crisis.
Paradoxically, immunisation is threatened by its success because while the developed world has not met many infectious diseases for many generations due to vaccination, many parents tend to see vaccines as unnecessary burdens, not to mention the various conspiracy theories surrounding them. Due to this in Western Europe and in the United States vaccination decreased significantly in the past years, which resulted in the following: there were many epidemic outbreaks with casualties that could have otherwise been prevented.
However, as Dr. Beatrix Oroszi, expert of the National Public Health Institute emphasized, one of the main health care lessons of the 21st century is that we did not get rid of the infectious diseases, we could only confine them. Good news is that in Hungary the vaccination discipline is still high; protection for the whole population by vaccination is above 99 per cent.
Beatrix Oroszi highlighted another field besides infectious diseases where vaccination can have a great role, namely cancer prevention. In the fight against cervical cancer caused by viral contamination a great progress was achieved by providing the optional vaccination free of charge, even in the case of the most deprived groups.
As Dr. Zsuzsanna Orsós, researcher at the UP pointed out in her presentation, the social-economical dimension is vital. In her niche work she explored the immunisation of the Roma population and while in the case of compulsory vaccination it corresponds to the data of majority society, in the case of the optional, mainly pay vaccination it is much lower. The participants agreed that these factors fundamentally derogate the equal opportunities in health care and require further investigation and measures.
The research of Professor Péter Németh and Dr. Katalin Böröcz, researchers of the UP Department of Immunology and Biotechnology, is similarly niche and concentrates on the long-term effectiveness of vaccination. Certain kinds of vaccines do not provide full protection after a while, causing serious risks to the health care personnel who come in contact with infectious diseases for example, or in the circles of the vulnerable members of the population (old-age people, people with serious illness). It is hoped that the test developed by the researchers in Pécs is going to be able to reveal the potential risks in a cost-efficient and simple way.
The UP can play a leading role in another critically important field, namely the health screening of the foreign students studying in Hungary. Around 5 thousand foreign students study in Pécs only, country-wide this number reaches ten thousands while their health screening is totally incidental. As Dr. Antal Tibold reported in his presentation, after a TBC case that luckily turned out to be an isolated one, a university working group created a comprehensive proposal for the examination of foreign university students and it is planned that it could become a national procedure. The concept supported by the participants can be of critical importance in preventing possible epidemiological situations.