Vaccination

Vaccination protects people against serious and life-threatening infectious diseases, such as influenza (flu), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), meningococcal disease, invasive pneumococcal disease and polio.

Each year, vaccination stops 2.7 million people worldwide from getting measles, one million from getting pertussis and two million babies from getting tetanus (1).

In the past, many people died of diseases that can now be prevented through vaccination. People also suffered more commonly from disease-related complications, such as blindness due to measles and babies born with deafness, cataracts or learning disabilities due to their mothers getting rubella in pregnancy. Polio - as many people born before the 60's will remember - used to be a major cause of death, paralysis and lifelong disabilities in Europe and other regions.

This video is available in 24 EU languages. Turn on subtitles in your language.

How contagious are different diseases? 

how contagious measles is
Measles

Measles

12-18 people 

The centre dot represent one person affected by a disease. The connected dots indicate the maximum and minimum number of previously uninfected and unvaccinated people who could get infected by a person with the disease. This shows both the most conservative estimate (inner ring, darker dots) and the maximum estimate (outer ring, paler dots).

how contagious mumps is
Mumps

Mumps

4-7 people

The centre dot represent one person affected by a disease. The connected dots indicate the maximum and minimum number of previously uninfected and unvaccinated people who could get infected by a person with the disease. This shows both the most conservative estimate (inner ring, darker dots) and the maximum estimate (outer ring, paler dots).

how contagious pertussis is
Pertussis

Pertussis

12-17 people 

The centre dot represent one person affected by a disease. The connected dots indicate the maximum and minimum number of previously uninfected and unvaccinated people who could get infected by a person with the disease. This shows both the most conservative estimate (inner ring, darker dots) and the maximum estimate (outer ring, paler dots).

how contagious rubella is
Diphtheria/Rubella

Diphtheria/Rubella

6-7 people

The centre dot represent one person affected by a disease. The connected dots indicate the maximum and minimum number of previously uninfected and unvaccinated people who could get infected by a person with the disease. This shows both the most conservative estimate (inner ring, darker dots) and the maximum estimate (outer ring, paler dots). 

how contagious influenza is
Influenza

Influenza

1-4 people

The centre dot represent one person affected by a disease. The connected dots indicate the maximum and minimum number of previously uninfected and unvaccinated people who could get infected by a person with the disease. This shows both the most conservative estimate (inner ring, darker dots) and the maximum estimate (outer ring, paler dots).

Source: Plotkin S, Orenstein W,  Offit P. Vaccines.

Fifth Edition 2008, Elsevier Inc. 

Vaccination helps prevent the spread of disease in communities. When a large percentage of a population is vaccinated, infectious diseases cannot easily spread. This is known as 'community immunity' (also referred to as 'herd immunity'). Vaccination can eliminate diseases or reduce the number of new cases significantly.

Thanks to vaccination:

  • smallpox is now eradicated worldwide;
  • transmission of polio has ended in most parts of the world, including Europe.

Vaccination also prevents the development of certain types of pre-cancerous growths and cancers, for example:

  • vaccinating against humanpapilloma virus (HPV) can help prevent cervical and other cancers caused by HPV infection;
  • vaccinating against hepatitis B can help prevent liver cancer caused by long-term hepatitis B infection.

Vaccination programmes have wider societal benefits. They help reduce the social, psychological and financial burdens of disease on people and governments, reducing pressures on healthcare and social care systems and enabling people to pursue productive activities including education and employment.

Vaccination is the best way to acquire immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases, as opposed to immunity attained by getting the disease. Vaccination prevents people from getting the symptoms of the disease, which can be severe.

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References:

(1) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/MEMO_18_3458

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Benefits of vaccination for the community

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When to vaccinate

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Page last updated 13 Mar 2020