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European Immunisation Week highlights sharps safety importance

April 28, 2016

The World Health Organization's European Immunisation Week is currently taking place, in a bid to increase the uptake of preventative injections and to raise awareness of the conditions they can help to safeguard against.

At the same time, the event brings the importance of sharps safety and the prevention of needlestick injuries back into prominence for medical professionals. Such injuries can result in the transmission of potentially life-threatening blood-borne infections, including HIV, hepatitis C and even the fast-spreading Zika virus.

With WHO hoping that vaccine uptake will increase as a result of the week-long awareness campaign, it is important for doctors and nurses to exercise the utmost caution and follow official sharps safety guidelines when administering these additional injections.

European Immunisation Week

European Immunisation Week began on Sunday April 24th and will end on Saturday April 30th, coinciding with a bigger drive to encourage increased uptake of jabs across the globe as part of World Immunisation Week.

The event's slogan is 'prevent, protect, immunise' and its primary aim is to ensure that health authorities and patients alike around the world are aware that simple, quick-to-administer injections could help to save children's and adults' lives by protecting them against deadly diseases.

European Immunisation Week has brought the importance of both vaccinations and sharps safety back into the headlines and has received backing from UNICEF and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Increasing MMR jab uptake

In the UK, the awareness week has seen a significant push for increased uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

WHO wants at least 95 per cent of all two year-olds to have received the MMR jab so they are protected against these three diseases, but Britain is currently 3.5 per cent short of this target. Overall, this equates to around 24,000 children who are missing out on this vital protection each year.

However, Public Health England and other health bodies are hoping that the increased coverage of vaccines taking place over European Immunisation Week will lead to this gap closing.

It's never too late for individuals to be vaccinated against measles, mumps or rubella, so the experts are also encouraging older children and adults to contact their GP to complete their course of injections.

It is thought that the majority of people born before 1970 will have some natural immunity to measles, but it's always better to be safe than sorry and to speak to a doctor to find out for sure.

Many younger people may have also missed out on building up immunity to the three illnesses because their parents took the decision for them not to receive the vaccine following the publication of a 1998 report that highlighted risks with the jab, linking it to the onset of autism and other conditions. However, this has since been discredited.

What's more, figures show that in 1998, just 56 measles cases were recorded in the UK, but this rose dramatically over the following ten years, with 1,348 diagnoses in 2008.

With this in mind, it is arguably now more important than ever for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to be encouraging increased uptake of the MMR jab and other preventative vaccinations, as long as sharps safety remains at the forefront of their actions.

Image: Gajus via iStock

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