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Vaccination and personal protection against infections

Vaccination to prevent infectious diseases is counted among the most effective and most cost-efficient medical interventions. In addition to personal protection against infections, the achievement of collective vaccine protection is the deciding factor with the majority of diseases preventable by vaccination to also protect high-risk groups of the population who cannot be vaccinated themselves for various reasons. Against this background, it is essential to firmly establish the knowledge of the benefits of vaccination and to increase the willingness to get vaccinated. The Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) has also set itself this goal as part of its educational and motivational work relating to seasonal influenza vaccination and the basic immunisation of children and adolescents. In 2012, another major focus was added to vaccine protection against measles, which does not only take account of the recommendations for children and adolescents, but also addresses adults born after 1970 in accordance with the recommendations for measles vaccination. Apart from a great number of brochures, the BZgA also provides product-neutral information around the subject of vaccination based on the current state of knowledge as well accompanying hygiene measures in the Internet portal www.impfen-info.de. The Internet portal addresses the general public and provides information about diseases preventable by vaccination and the possibilities of preventing them.

Influenza vaccination

In 2006, the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) started to take measures to increase the seasonal influenza vaccination coverage. The goal of these measures is to increase the vaccination coverage in the risk groups defined by the Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO): a) people aged over 60 years, b) people of any age suffering from chronic diseases, c) pregnant women and d) medical staff.

Flu is not just a mild viral infection (or “common cold”) but constitutes a serious disease. Due to its potentially severe complications, influenza poses a substantial health risk, particularly to elderly people and people suffering from underlying diseases. Due to the various changes taking place in their bodies, pregnant women are also subject to an increased risk of getting infected and sustaining more serious consequences. Furthermore, medical staff in hospitals, old people’s homes/nursing homes and medical practices may contract influenza viruses more easily due to their frequent contact with patients. At the same time, they can unintentionally pass on the virus to the patients, to whom the disease can pose considerable risk due to their often poor general condition.

The best way to prevent an infection is influenza vaccination. It should take place in good time prior to the beginning of the winter influenza season, if possible already in October or November, and needs to be repeated every year. The informational literature of the campaign can be requested via the online ordering system.

Vaccine protection against measles

In 2012, the Federal Centre for Health Education started a new campaign on vaccination against measles under the motto “Germany is searching for the vaccination card”. In doing so, it supports the joint objective of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Europe to eradicate measles. The new educational campaign predominantly addresses adolescents and young adults, and supplements the existing information for parents of small children.
Contrary to popular belief, measles is no harmless childhood disease. Complications such as inflammation of the middle ear, the lungs or the brain are possible. Moreover, about half of the cases reported today concern adolescents and young adults. Adolescents with incomplete vaccine protection should make up for any missing vaccinations as soon as possible. Since 2010, the Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) has additionally recommended vaccination against measles to all adults born after 1970 without sufficient existing immune protection. Initial results of a study conducted by the BZgA (2012) investigating the knowledge, attitude and conduct concerning protection against infections have shown that 81% of all people born after 1970 are not yet aware of this vaccination recommendation.

The core elements of the campaign are humorously exaggerated pictures of young people searching for their vaccination records, which are supposed to draw attention to measles vaccination. Besides information about the clinical picture and the vaccination, an interactive video vaccination check and a measles quiz are also provided under www.impfen-info.de/impfpass.

Personal protection against infections - Hygiene

In addition to vaccination, supplementary hygiene measures also constitute an effective way of preventing the dispersion of many pathogens. Washing hands frequently and thoroughly as well as coughing and sneezing into a paper tissue or into the crook of the arm are important precautions for infection prevention to protect oneself and others, especially high-risk groups such as babies and people suffering from chronic diseases.

Many pathogens can be transmitted via the hands. These include both respiratory infections and diarrhoea infections, which are spread as smear infections. When coughing or sneezing into the hands, or when they carry minute traces of faecal matter, numerous viruses and bacteria can be transmitted from humans to humans, from hand to hand. These pathogens enter the body via the mucous membrane of the eyes, the nose or the mouth, and can lead to an infection. Many germs can also stick to contaminated (unclean) surfaces such as door handles, from where they are taken up via the hands. Washing hands thoroughly and regularly can considerably reduce the rate of e.g. diarrhoea infections. Proper hand hygiene can also contribute to interrupting the breakout of infection chains.

Both due to their immature immune system and their numerous social contacts and physical proximity to other children, children and adolescents are particularly often affected by infectious diseases. Acute respiratory and gastrointestinal infections are among the most frequently occurring diseases in childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, children and adolescents contribute to the rapid spreading of infections to a great extent. Since hygiene habits are not congenital, they have to be conveyed to children at an early age in order to adopt a daily hygiene routine. The Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) has therefore created three different media packages for kindergartens, primary schools and schools of lower secondary education as part of the campaign “I protect myself - so I protect you”. These media provide information about how to wash hands, cough and sneeze correctly. The media for protection against infections through hygiene can be requested free of charge via the online ordering system.

Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) / Maarweg 149-161 / 50825 Köln / Tel +49 221 8992-0 / Fax +49 221 8992-300 /
E-Mail:
poststelle@bzga.de / E-Mail for mail orders: order@bzga.de

The Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) is a specialist authority within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Health.