In the past few years, vaccines have occupied a prominent place in public debate – from questions around lack of uptake and increasing rates of vaccine-preventable diseases to vaccine hesitancy and queries around provision, it seemed that vaccines gained a high profile in the media, in parliamentary discussions and in the public consciousness.
However, over the last few weeks, the crucial role that vaccines play in protecting our health and keeping our world safe has come into sharp focus with emergence of a new Coronavirus. In under four months, this minute virus has performed the extraordinary feat of jumping the species barrier and then spreading around the globe to infect hundreds of thousands of people. The speed with which this has happened and the consequences on all our lives are truly staggering. Hope, however, comes in the form of a vaccine. As we speak, immunologists around the world are working night and day to develop a vaccine that will protect us against infection by this new Coronavirus. This is by no means an easy feat and we will need all the skill and knowledge of our researchers to achieve this.
Our Celebrate Vaccines campaign, launching on 26 March, was conceived before any of this happened. However, the emergence of this new microscopic pathogen which we are seemingly powerless against brings into sharp relief the important role that vaccination has played over the past 100 years in protecting our society against a host of diseases such as measles, polio, diphtheria and rubella. A world in which these pathogens are free to circulate is now almost unthinkable, although we are rapidly gaining an insight into how these infectious diseases must have shaped the experiences of our predecessors. While the development of a vaccine against the new Coronavirus is of utmost importance, we must not lose sight of the value of maintaining vaccination uptake against other preventable diseases and how this helps to maintain our way of life, both in the UK and around the world.
Sadly, many children in the world do not have the luxury of access to routine vaccinations. GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, aims to change this. They are soon to start a new strategic cycle which looks to raise $7.4 billion to immunise 300 million children and save more than 7 million lives around the world – a truly impressive goal. Through appreciating the power of vaccines to transform the lives of individuals and societies around the world, we hope our Celebrate Vaccines campaign will engage and inform the national and international narrative about how vaccines work and why they are important for improving global public health.
Vaccines save lives. We invite you to celebrate the power of vaccines with us.
> Learn more about #CelebrateVaccines
> Read the full policy report 'Protecting the World: 200 years of UK Vaccine Research'
> Explore our educational resources & public engagement kit
> Show your support on social media with our toolkit & explainer videos