01.01.2014 At first hand

Editorial Daniel Koch. The most recent vote on the Epidemics Act has once more demonstrated that the subject of vaccinations can arouse emotions and trigger debate. When an epidemic with a high mortality rate looms on the horizon, the loudest voices are those clamouring for vaccinations. At other times, they are those who fear vaccinations.

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Vaccines no longer need to prove their worth. The fact that at least 95 per cent of children in Switzerland have been vaccinated is a clear sign that, as a preventive measure, vaccination is basically unchallenged. Yet because of the almost complete eradication of life-threatening diseases such as smallpox, diphtheria and polio and, even more so, the mere suggestion of a serious adverse reaction to vaccines, the benefits of vaccination tend to be forgotten.

Awareness of the benefits and risks of vaccination is off-balance, despite comprehensively available and reproducible statistics and analyses showing clearly that the benefits of recommended vaccinations far outweigh the possible drawbacks. The risks associated with vaccination are much less serious than those of the diseases that vaccines prevent.

Protecting individuals and the population as a whole and avoiding doing any harm are concerns shared by all the players involved and at all levels – from university lab research to industrial production, authorisation of a vaccine to postmarketing surveillance, development of recommendations to evaluation of effects, and communication of the recommendations to implementation by GPs. Numerous mechanisms guarantee the quality, safety and appropriateness of vaccines.

To ensure that the full potential of vaccinations can be realised and further developed, we have to take the concerns of the public seriously, underpin the credibility of players and communication, and continue working with appropriate structures and measures to support and document the positive effects of vaccines.

It is with this in mind that we want to implement the revised Epidemics Act and develop a National Vaccination Programme.

Daniel Koch,
Head of the Communicable Diseases Division
Federal Office of Public Health

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