Vaccination is a cornerstone of public health. It is one of the most effective (and cost-effective) methods of preventing the spread of infectious disease. Yet its benefits are often misunderstood and implementation varies widely across Europe.
Most vaccination programmes focus on discrete life stages such as childhood, but evidence supports a life-course approach, meaning vaccination given through all phases of life. Taking a life-course approach to vaccination will not only help individuals maintain good health throughout their life, but also has the potential for enormous public health and socioeconomic benefits.
Through herd immunity, widespread vaccination can reduce rates of illness in our societies, including among people who are not vaccinated. This is crucial for vulnerable people, such as young infants or people with certain illnesses, who cannot be vaccinated themselves.
High vaccination rates can also help to reduce our reliance on antibiotics, which contributes to antimicrobial resistance – one of the most pressing challenges facing healthcare in the 21st century, contributing to over 25,000 deaths per year in Europe alone.