Vaccination is considered the main Public Health action carried out by human beings, together with the purification of water, which has managed to drastically reduce transmissible infectious diseases and improve the quality of life of the population.
Through vaccination we can protect ourselves in an easy and effective way against diseases that are harmful to our body. Vaccines are capable of activating our natural defenses so that they learn to resist infections and therefore strengthen our immune system.
When we get vaccinated, our immune system produces antibodies , exactly the same as when we get the disease, but with the difference that vaccines only contain weakened or dead viruses or bacteria. This makes it possible for us not to develop the disease or complications, but yes, we are immunized.
Vaccines have changed our lives
Population immunization, as a primary prevention tool, has been one of the most important Public Health achievements and one of the measures with the greatest socioeconomic impact.
Before the introduction of the vaccination schedule, infectious diseases were the main cause of infant death. Vaccination programs represent a clear investment in health, for each euro invested in vaccination, there is a saving of between 4 and 5 euros in direct costs.
The first childhood vaccination schedule in Spain was implemented by the General Directorate of Health of the Ministry of the Interior in 1975, and included polio, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and smallpox vaccines.
Starting in the 1980s, the transfer of powers from Public Health to the Autonomous Communities began. From that moment on, the health administrations are responsible for managing the vaccination program, which implies managing their respective schedules, purchase, distribution and administration of the vaccines.
In Spain, before the introduction of vaccination schedules, infectious diseases were the main cause of infant mortality. The Spanish Association of Paediatrics publishes an annual calendar with recommendations for children and adolescents.
New in 2022
In this year 2022, there are two novelties to highlight within the recommendations, such as:
- Vaccination against influenza from 6 to 59 months of age whenever feasible and with the aim of increasing individual protection but also towards other older people.
- The recommendation from 5 years of age for covid mRNA vaccines .
Although in 1995, the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (SNS ) approved a common calendar. It is important to remember that the vaccination calendar of the autonomous community or city itself must be consulted, since these may vary due to the decentralization of our National Health System.
Even so, different organizations such as the Spanish Association of Paediatrics are working on the unification of a single vaccination calendar for the entire Spanish territory.
Main milestones of vaccination
Did you know that the first vaccine discovered was smallpox in 1796? At the end of the 18th century, Edward Jenner , a British doctor, observed that people who came into contact with cowpox (a weaker variant) were immunized against human smallpox.
Another of the great changes in humanity was introduced in the 1880s by Louis Pasteur who revealed the possibility of immunizing against a disease using attenuated microorganisms. It was in 1885 when the first vaccine against rabies was developed.
Only a decade later, vaccines with killed microorganisms began to be used against plague and cholera, and at the beginning of the 20th century, vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and tuberculosis emerged . From there, the development of vaccines has been exponential until the introduction of polio, measles and rubella vaccines, among others.
Nurses as reference persons
The role of nurses in vaccination is fundamental; In addition to administering, managing and maintaining vaccines, we have to be constantly updated on the evidence generated around them, in order to provide quality, effective and efficient care.
The work of nurses goes beyond the mere registration, control or management of vaccines. We carry out dissemination and information work with the aim of resolving concerns, worries or doubts that society may have regarding this issue.
If you have any questions regarding the vaccines, do not hesitate to contact your nurse at the health center. They are a clear, necessary and reliable reference for the population they serve. Remember to check the vaccination calendar of your autonomous community to find out which vaccines are included in the calendar and which are not.
Vaccines are safe, effective and save between two and three million lives worldwide each year. It is important that we know how it works and that we are able to resolve any doubts that may arise.
Every year, we can find variations in terms of guidelines and even administration dates, but that is synonymous with the fact that science is alive. We advance in science and therefore in improving the health of the population.
Spanish Association of Pediatrics. 2022. AEP vaccination schedule. https://vacunasaep.org/professionals/calendario-de-vacunaciones-de-la-aep-2022Carracedo, SB 2018. The role of the nursing staff in the promotion and implementation of vaccinations. Vaccines , 19 (1), 31-36.World Health Organization. 2021. Theoretical Efficacy, Actual Efficacy, and Protection of Vaccines. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/feature-stories/detail/vaccine-efficacy-effectiveness-and-protectionWorld Health Organization. 2021. Vaccines and immunization: what is vaccination? https://www.who.int/en/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/vaccines-and-immunization-what-is-vaccination?adgroupsurvey=%7badgroupsurvey%7d&gclid=Cj0KCQjwgMqSBhDCARIsAIIVN1UW9Mt_gMkoBZg-ngVEFh6RpmifK4kF6Fw8cafEarcNEwAwHdVCwAfDyc1XmPerez. F., 2021. Nurses: Vaccines, Science, and a Passion for Prevention. https://www.vacunacovid.gob.es/voces-expertas/enfermeras-vacunas-ciencia-y-pasion-por-la-prevencion