Vaccination: Need for caution

By Indira Chakravarthi

, by Seminar Magazine

FOR almost a century now vaccination has been promoted by governments across the world as an indispensable public health measure to reduce incidence and associated mortality and morbidity from infectious diseases. In fact, use of vaccines and ability to control infectious diseases are looked upon as major public health success stories. Since the past couple of decades, cost-effectiveness has also been added to its list of merits.

India’s immunization programme is considered to be one of the largest in the world in terms of quantities of vaccines used, number of beneficiaries, the numbers of immunization sessions organized, the geographical spread and diversity of areas covered. [...]

It is not widely known that there has been opposition to vaccination almost since its inception, such as to smallpox vaccination in England, United States and India in mid-late 1800s. In more recent times in developed countries there has been either questioning of or opposition on grounds of safety and efficacy of certain vaccines. Vaccination policies have also given rise to ethical problems, such as those of informed consent, mandatory vaccination, quarantine, etc. It is looked upon as an issue where measures required to promote public health conflict with basic human rights and liberties. It is also felt that as more and more vaccines are being developed, priority setting seems unavoidable. Hence, this requires ethical reflection, including evaluation of public risk of different diseases, reflection on value assumptions in cost-effectiveness analyses, and levels of effectiveness that must be attained with a particular vaccine.

Read more on Seminar Magazine, March 2012

Read the full issue on immunization, vaccination and childhood disease