When we talk about reversible diseases we refer to infective diseases which can be prevented with vaccines that already exist. The return of preventable diseases can be then explained as the phenomenon through which diseases that were thought to be eliminated are currently resurfacing. The main reason for this to happen lies in the fact that increasing parts of populations forego the necessary vaccinations.

25 dangerous diseases are listed as still causing millions of death, making this situation sadly paradoxical since all of them are either treatable with existing medicines or preventable in the first place. Some of the main ones are considered to be tubercolosis, measles, whopping cough, Hepatits, diphteria, cholera, influenza, HIV, AIDS and malaria (1).

Those diseases are recognized to be much more widespread in developing countries, mainly because they do not have enough resources available to be allocated in health system. Most of the diseases affecting low-income countries find its roots in the consequences of poverty, such as poor nutrition, air pollution and lack of access to proper sanitation and health education. Diseases associated with poverty account for 45 per cent of the disease burden in the poorest countries (2).

Despite this issue seems related only to poorest countries, it is increasingly affecting also developed countries (3). In fact, although overall vaccine coverage levels still remain high in those nations, today’s parents are opting to intentionally skip or delay the administration of certain vaccines to their children. Exemptions are starting to be allowed by many governments in order to uphold their citizen’s personal freedom of choice. Moreover, in recent times a higher tax of return of infective diseases in richer countries is thought to occur for specific reasons, such as the higher rate of immigration from poor countries in which these infective diseases have not been eliminated yet, and the conformation of this globalized world, strongly interconnected, which allows diseases to cross borders and spread throughout the international community much more easily than before. For this reason, it is widely believed that vaccination policies created by individual national governments are simply insufficient by their own, and should be reformed at the international level. State borders cannot independently contain infectious illnesses, so vaccination policies should be approached through international collaboration and perhaps a reformation of global health policy.

WHO, the UN organization focused on promoting global health has is main goal in constructing such regional partnerships and policies. Nevertheless, as examined before, it has to cope with two extremely different realities of this multifaceted issue, in developed and developing countries. Thus, it has to develop different approaches and distinct effective plans of action. On the one hand, for what concerns developing countries, WHO has already set an international standard for the most basic list of vaccinations that all people should receive (4). Nevertheless, many further actions should be taken in this context, in order to effectively help developing countries to reach an acceptable level, as many of them are still unable to meet even the most basic provisions set by these guidelines. An effective intervention should be developed by starting to consider economic disparities in order to allocate resources and funding efficiently. On the other hand, in developed countries, a totally different action is to be adopted, repairing the image and the reputation of vaccines. Indeed, no campaign for global vaccinations will ever be a complete success until the trust of people across the globe in health system is regained.

Maria Chiara Zeri
Livia Stamme

Sources

  1. NPR.org, (2014). How Vaccine Fears Fueled The Resurgence Of Preventable Diseases. [online] Available at: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/01/25/265750719/how-vaccine-fears-fueled-the-resurgence-of-preventable-diseases [Accessed 15 Dec. 2015].
  2. WHO, World Health Report, 2002
  3. CJ Harrison, MA Jackson, and JD Lantos, “Why We Should Eliminate Personal Belief Exemptions to Vaccine Mandates,” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 37, No. 1 (2012): 131-40
  4. Anthony Burton, et al., “WHO and UNICEF Estimates of National Infant Immunization Coverage: Methods and Processes,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 87, No. 7 (July 2009): 485–564 World Health Report 2003, WHO