Why are vaccinations needed?

Vaccination is an effective and safe way to combat infectious diseases. A vaccine provides protection to the vaccinated person and also indirectly to other people by reducing the spread of pathogens in the population. When the disease does not occur in the local environment and few people are susceptible to it, the disease will also not spread so easily. 

Epidemics can only be kept under control when the vaccination coverage is sufficiently high. The sufficient vaccination coverage depends on the disease. An easily infectious and spreading disease requires a higher vaccination coverage than a more poorly transmitted disease. 

Vaccinated people also protect indirectly those who could not be vaccinated, for example because of their age or some other reason. At the same time, they also protect persons who are particularly susceptible to illness due to issues such as a chronic disease or related treatment. This phenomenon known as herd immunity also improves the protection of vaccinated people.

The vaccination programme makes low-cost health benefits available to Finnish people.  This enables using healthcare resources for treating and preventing health problems other than infectious diseases.

Benefits at the individual level

Infectious diseases used to be the main cause of death for children. Infectious diseases, such as polio, also often caused disability in children. Adults died of diseases such as tuberculosis. Many infectious diseases have been dangerous for groups such as older people and pregnant women.

Even today, an infectious disease can be serious in itself as it can cause severe secondary diseases and permanent injury or even death.

Vaccination can completely prevent developing an illness. While vaccination cannot always completely prevent an infection, it can provide protection against the most serious forms of disease.

Personal vaccination protection gains prominence when

  • a vaccine prevents developing a serious disease but does not prevent infection or infectivity
  • a vaccine is used to prevent a disease that is not transmitted from one person to another, such as tetanus.

While vaccination usually provides good and long-term immunity, it does not necessarily give total protection. The individual protection provided by vaccination depends on a variety of factors. It is influenced by the characteristics of the pathogen, the vaccine and the vaccine recipient. Sometimes a vaccinated person may become ill despite the vaccination, but the symptoms are usually less severe in such cases.

Vaccination can be used to reduce suffering related to illness. 

Benefits at the population level

A comprehensive vaccination programme can be used to reduce infectious diseases and combat epidemics in the population. High vaccination coverage also provides herd immunity for those who have not been vaccinated. For example, this brings benefits to newborn babies and infants whose immunity is not yet as good as in healthy adults.

In the best-case scenario, vaccinations can be used to fully eradicate a disease from a region or the world. An example of this is smallpox, which was globally eradicated a few decades ago. The vaccine recipients of the past have thus indirectly also provided protection for all children of today.

Although vaccination always takes place one child at a time, the benefits of vaccination may extend widely both regionally and over time.

Vaccines have completely or nearly completely eradicated several infectious diseases from Finland, including 

  • diphtheria
  • poliomyelitis (polio)
  • serious Hib diseases
  • measles
  • rubella
  • mumps.

At the same time, complications caused by these diseases have been eliminated, including paralyses caused by polio, encephalomyelitis associated with measles, disability caused by congenital rubella, and deafness caused by mumps.

Vaccination programme for children and adults

Vaccination coverage

Benefits to society as a whole

The national vaccination programme plays a major role in society. The vaccination programme has resulted in a significant reduction in the use of health services because of infectious diseases, leaving more resources for the prevention and treatment of other diseases.

The vaccination programme can also increase health at reasonable costs. Some vaccines can even increase health free of charge, as their costs are lower than the health care costs caused by the combated diseases. These vaccinations include the MMR, or measles-mumps-rubella, vaccinations and influenza vaccinations for young children.

Among other things, a comprehensive vaccination programme reduces

  • social and health care expenditure
  • other costs related to diseases
  • sickness absences
  • absences from work of the parents of young children.