World Immunization Week: Vaccines as a Chance for Health

April 24 marks the start of the annual World Immunization Week, which takes place each year during the last week of April. The goal of the initiative is to draw attention to the importance of preventive immunization to protect people from diseases that can be countered with vaccines. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immunization prevents more than 5 million deaths annually[1].

Vaccination is the easiest, safest and most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. Modern vaccines activate the body’s natural defense mechanisms, forming resistance to infections and strengthening the immune system. Mass preventive immunization is a prerequisite for protecting the population from growing morbidity and eliminating potentially dangerous infections[2]. Studies show that if most of the population is vaccinated, the likelihood of spreading the disease will be reduced[3].

The contribution of preventive vaccination to increasing the length and quality of human life at all ages is indisputable. Today, the Russian National Vaccination Schedule includes vaccines against 12 infections: viral hepatitis B, tuberculosis, pneumococcal infection, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, haemophilus influenzae, polio, measles, rubella, mumps and influenza[4].

Many infectious diseases have no «season»: they can catch you by surprise at any time of the year. One of these «all-season» infections is pneumococcal disease, which is especially dangerous for children, the elderly, and people with chronic conditions[5]. Pneumococcal disease causes a number of serious conditions, primarily pneumococcal pneumonia. One of the factors in the severe course of pneumococcal infection is the aging of the immune system: according to experts, the mortality rate from pneumonia caused by this pathogen is 32% in people over 65[6][7].

Among children, patients under 5 years of age are the most vulnerable to the disease: their immune system is just being formed. As recently as 2008, pneumonia alone claimed the lives of more than a million children under the age of five worldwide each year, according to the WHO. Pneumococcus can cause both invasive forms of infection: meningitis, pneumonia with bacteremia, sepsis, which often lead to death, and more common non-invasive forms: pneumonia without bacteremia, as well as otitis, sinusitis, conjunctivitis.

Beginning in 2014, mandatory childhood vaccination against pneumococcal infection was introduced into the Russian National Vaccination Schedule. Immunization of at-risk groups is now included in the schedule for epidemiological indications[8]. In nine years, the total volume of a conjugated 13-valent vaccine supplied to the Russian market was more than 37 million doses, including more than 30 million doses for the National Schedule of Prophylactic Immunization of the Russian Federation. During this period, significant results were achieved in reducing mortality from pneumonia among children in the first year of life; compared to the pre-vaccination period, infant mortality decreased by 56%[9]. The vaccine has been used in 126 countries for more than 10 years, preventing more than 175 million cases and 625,000 deaths[10].

Immunization with a conjugated pneumococcal vaccine builds resistance to infection and strengthens the immune system through a complex mechanism of action in which specific antibodies and memory T cells are formed for long-term protection.

During a pandemic, combined immunization, for example, against influenza and pneumococcal infection, results in an even stronger T cell immune response. According to Professor Mikhail Kostinov, an allergist and immunologist, an adjuvant azoximer bromide influenza vaccine and a polysaccharide conjugated pneumococcal vaccine activate innate immunity receptors that recognize viruses.

The inclusion of adjuvants in the composition of vaccines is aimed at strengthening, accelerating and prolonging the immune response to vaccine antigens. Thus, due to the azoximer bromide adjuvant in influenza vaccines, long-term immunity is maintained, and a reduced number of antigens ensure a high safety profile, so the vaccines can be used in people with various health conditions[11].

And although there is a common misconception that influenza cannot seriously harm human health, such potential post infection complications as pneumonia, pulmonary tissue dysfunction, respiratory failure, present a particular danger.

The updated clinical guidelines of the Ministry of Health highlight Russian inactivated subunit adjuvant azoximer bromide influenza vaccines[12], which have an extensive and long-standing evidence base and are part of immunization programs in several countries.

Nowadays, a growing number of people refuse vaccination, considering it useless and even dangerous. Such a misconception increases the risk of contracting dangerous infectious diseases and may even result in death. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the potential risks, and without vaccines people worldwide would experience much more illnesses and deaths.

1WHO. Vaccines and Immunization.

2 WHO. Vaccines and immunization: What is vaccination?.

3 Reasons for Adults to be Vaccinated. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

4 Order of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation (Minzdrav of Russia) No. 125n dated March 21, 2014, Moscow. “On Approval of the National Schedule of Prophylactic Immunization and the Schedule of Preventive Immunizations for Epidemic Indications”.

5WHO. Pneumococcal Disease. Surveillance Standards for Managed Infections. Last updated September 5, 2018

6 Т.V. Barakhovskaya, A.V. Shcherbakova. Pneumonias: A Manual for Physicians - Irkutsk: 2017. – 80 p.

7Nikolay Ivanovich Briko, Vladimir Andreyevich Korshunov, Kirill Sergeyevich Lomonosov PNEUMOCOCCAL DISEASE IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION: STATE OF THE ISSUE // Annals of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences (RAMS). 2021. No. 1

8 Order of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation (Minzdrav of Russia) No. 125n dated March 21, 2014, Moscow “On Approval of the National Schedule of Prophylactic Immunization and the Schedule of Preventive Immunizations for Epidemic Indications”.

9 Based on the Rosstat data.

10 Horn E.K. et al. Public health impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccination: a review of measurement challenges // Expert Rev Vaccines. 2021 Oct; 20 (10): 1291-1309. doi: 10.1080/14760584.2021.1971521.

11 Kompier R, Neels P, Beyer W et al. Analysis of the safety and immunogenicity profile of an azoximer bromide polymer-adjuvanted subunit influenza vaccine. F1000Research 2022, 11:259.


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