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Vaccines: The medical miracles saving millions of lives

Changing the trajectory of human evolution, vaccines are widely considered to be one of the most successful developments in the health sector.

Such is the influence of these vital medicines on society that thousands of lives which would have once been lost, are now saved—each person owing their health and lives to modern science.

Dr Melinda Suchard, Head of the Centre for Vaccines and Immunology at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, explains one merely needs to look at our past to see how far vaccines have brought humanity. She states, “history is full of descriptions of the devastation wrought on populations by infectious diseases before the age of vaccination. Huge numbers were killed by diseases like measles and smallpox, and hundreds of thousands left paralysed by polio.”

Through the use of vaccines, massive strides have been made in combating diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and of course, polio. Thanks to vaccines, Dr Suchard points out that many of these diseases are now uncommon. They have become so rare, mothers of today may never even have seen or heard of friends who have lost children due to illnesses such as measles or diphtheria.

But there is a negative side to the success of vaccines and the mass result generated by their use.

This negative aspect has led to complacency and a false sense of comfort throughout various groups of people, whereby a virus or disease which has not been witnessed for some time, translates in these groups minds, to vaccines being deemed unnecessary or worse, poor for your health—seeing these groups of people avoiding having their children vaccinated, resulting in the resurgence of viruses or diseases.

Unless we start remembering the devastation caused by these diseases in bygone years, prior to vaccines, such as seen with COVID-19, humankind is sure to face many challenges.

While vaccines are one of the most prevalent advancements in medical history, they continue to evolve, ensuring society does not fall victim to what the planet throws at us. Dr Suchard points out that these new developments can be seen within our very country. In South Africa, the doctor says more modern vaccines have been introduced, allowing protection against Haemophilus influenza type b, Streptococcus pneumonia, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus and rotavirus. She states, “These vaccines are making a large impact on the health of South African children. We hope to see even more vaccines developed and implemented in the years to come.”

As vaccines play an instrumental role in our health and longevity, the Department of Health emphasises the importance of ensuring your child receives his or her vaccinations at regular intervals. Going on to say, children should be vaccinated at various ages: At birth, 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 14 Weeks, 9 months, 18 months, 6 years and at 12 years old.

The question now is, what diseases do vaccines prevent?

  • Chickenpox
  • Diphtheria
  • Influenza (Flu)
  • Hepatitis A & Hepatitis B
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Haemophilus Influenza type B (HIB)
  • Polio
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Tetanus (Lockjaw)
  • Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
  • Rotavirus
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal

With vaccinations playing a vital role in our species existence and health, be sure to have your child vaccinated today.

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