Many misconceptions about immunisation need to be addressed desperately, states the Western Cape Department of Health.
Some parents wrongly believe that infectious diseases are not serious and are a normal part of growing up. This is not true. Many childhood diseases like measles an polio can lead to death and permanent physical damage or paralysis.
If there were no immunisation programmes, infectious diseases would very quickly return to pre-immunisation levels and those not immunised could be at risk of disability or death, SA health officials cautioned.
South Africa only uses vaccines of high quality which are safe and effective, the health officials said.
Immunisation has been demonstrated to be one of the most effective public health interventions available. It is often thought of as the cornerstone of public healthcare. Immunisations save three million lives a year in the world and is one of the most cost-effective health interventions. The vaccine budget for Western Cape alone is R135 million and we now immunise against pneumococcal disease and diarrhoea due to Rotavirus.
To combat the spread of invasive pneumococcal disease in infants such as pneumonia, meningitis and bacteria, which are a major cause of diseases worldwide, the Health Department introduced a new vaccine called Prevenar to the immunisation schedule in the country.
Prevenar was distributed to primary health care facilities in the Western Cape and implemented in July 2009.
South African children are routinely vaccinated against major preventable diseases, which include diphtheria, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, measles and tetanus. Global strategies for Polio eradication and Measles elimination have been adopted.
Immunisation Awareness Campaigns need to address certain public misconceptions, such as that HIV-positive people do not need to be immunised. All children should be immunised against preventable diseases, regardless of their HIV status. In fact, no child should be denied the benefit of immunisation.
(Health24, April 2011)