The most recent international public health emergencies reminded the World that, beyond individual protection, through herd immunity, most vaccines have the power to stop the transmission of pathogens in the community when vaccination coverage rates reach certain thresholds.
That benefit is clearly an advantage of organized vaccination, through national programs or mass vaccination campaigns. It is one of Public Health’s major successes.
Vaccination has already eliminated or controlled diseases such as smallpox, poliomyelitis, measles, among others, throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, between 2000 and 2018, measles vaccination prevented around 23 million deaths worldwide. Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect children and adults from severe diseases and their complications, avoiding human suffering and reducing the burden on healthcare systems.
When it comes to Vaccination, Portugal is an example of good practice at international level, thanks to the National Vaccination Program (PNV), implemented in 1965 and based, from the beginning, on the following principles: to be equally and universally applied to all people living in Portugal; free of charge for the user; managed at national level, but decentralised and accessible throughout the local primary healthcare network of the National Health Service.
Furthermore, the PNV is a dynamic programme, constantly being updated, considering the epidemiological situation and in the light of evolving scientific knowledge.
The success of the NVP in Portugal is due to its principles, to the solid scientific support behind the introduction of new vaccines in the Programme, to the strong technical and normative component that supports its implementation, to the fact that it is deeply rooted in the network of public health units and primary health care services, to the trust that professionals and citizens place on it, and the visible and important impact on individual and public health.
The future demands major investment in Vaccination information, provided by credible sources and disseminated through different ways and means, in order to be accessible to the entire population.
Investment in informing the public and professionals, enabling them to make increasingly informed decisions and to share credible information on vaccines and vaccination, is the basis for broadening partnerships with different sectors of society, promoting a network of vaccination ambassadors with the aim of reaching more and more target audiences, and making more efficient the promotion of vaccination as a right, a responsibility and an act of citizenship.
Vaccination is the Past, the Present and the Future of Public Health.