Lesson 8 Vaccination

Vaccination is one of our most powerful tools against disease. In the past years, evolution of vaccines have made them one of the most important advances in preventive medicine. Every minute they save more than five lives and prevent up to three million deaths per year. In addition, vaccinations ensure maternal and newborn’s health and well-being. However, every year approximately 20 million children fail to get vaccinated. Migrant/refugee children and children of low SES families are the ones that mostly need vaccination in order to avoid disease, but unfortunately they are the ones that meet many barriers in healthcare and often they are deprived of the opportunity to get them. 

  • Every year 2 to 3 million children are saved from deadly diseases.
  • Approximately 45% of the world’s children under five years old are reached with life-saving vaccines.
  • Since 1988, the number of children paralysed by polio has fallen by over 99%
  • Over 23 million deaths have been avoided between 2000 and 2018 due to measles vaccination. 

Every country has a National Vaccination Schedule that defines what vaccines correspond to each age, in relation to frequency of diseases in each country. These are the most prevalent vaccines that are used in the majority of countries: 




Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection that most often attacks the lungs, but in infants and young children, affects other organs like the brain. A severe case could cause serious complications or death.
TB is very difficult to treat when contracted, and treatment is lengthy and not always successful.

Hep B

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus is a dangerous liver infection that, when caught as an infant, often shows no symptoms for decades. It can develop into cirrhosis and liver cancer later in life.



Polio is a virus that paralyzes 1 in 200 people who get infected. Among those cases, 5 to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles are paralyzed. There is no cure for polio once the paralysis sets in – only treatment to alleviate the symptoms.



Diphtheria infects the throat and tonsils, making it hard for children to breathe and swallow. Severe cases can cause heart, kidney and/or nerve damage.



Tetanus causes very painful muscle contractions. It can cause children’s neck and jaw muscles to lock (lockjaw), making it hard for them to open their mouth, swallow (breastfeed) or breathe. Even with treatment, tetanus is often fatal.



Pertussis (whooping cough) causes coughing spells that can last for weeks. In some cases, it can lead to trouble breathing, pneumonia, and death.


Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Hib is a bacterium that causes pneumonia, meningitis and other severe infections almost exclusively in children under 5 years old.


Pneumococcal Diseases 

Pneumococcal diseases range from serious diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia to milder but more common infections like sinusitis and ear infections.
Pneumococcal diseases are a common cause of sickness and death worldwide, especially among young children under 2 years old.



Rotaviruses cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and shock in young children. This can lead to death if treatment, especially fluid replacement, is not immediately started.



Measles is a highly contagious disease with symptoms that include fever, runny nose, white spots in the back of the mouth and a rash. Serious cases can cause blindness, brain swelling and death.



Mumps can cause headache, malaise, fever, and swollen salivary glands. Complications can include meningitis, swollen testicles and deafness.



Rubella infection in children and adults is usually mild, but in pregnant women it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death or birth defects.


Human Papillomavirus 

HPV usually has no symptoms, but some strains can cause cervical cancer – the fourth most common cancer in women. Almost all cases of cervical cancer (99 per cent) are caused by HPV. HPV can also cause genital warts in both men and women, as well as cancer on other parts of the body.

Check your child’s vaccination record in order to find out if it complies with your country’s National Vaccination Schedule!

If you want to learn more about vaccination, please refer to Module 3: Vaccination

Image taken from: https://unsplash.com 

Digital Health Promotion

Over the past few years and especially after the beginning of the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, health disparities of migrant/refugee and low SES populations have been exposed. At the same time, a benefit of this rather challenging period, is the development of digital tools addressed to vulnerable populations that have the goal to enhance literacy on various health issues. Not surprisingly, WHO have adopted the Global Strategy on Digital Health from 2020 to 2025, in order to promote more “appropriate, accessible, affordable, scalable and sustainable person  digital health solutions ” (who global strategy) 

These tools make access to health care more direct, efficient and less expensive, while taking some pressure off the healthcare system. Especially when it comes to children, digital tools is something they can easily be acquainted with, given how familiar they are with the internet. There are already digital platforms and services directed towards improving children’s lifestyle by providing access to healthcare services, and promoting healthy practices like applications that measure biometric features, telehealth tools and access to quality health information.