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NHS HIGHLAND: I strongly encourage all of us to take up the offer of vaccination

By Dr Tim Allison

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People will remember vaccinations associated with the pandemic.
People will remember vaccinations associated with the pandemic.

My holiday reading over the summer has been what some people might call a busman’s holiday. One of the books that I have been working my way through is the latest work by the historian Sir Simon Schama which is about how people have campaigned against infectious diseases.

It has a significant focus on vaccination, but the book avoids covering the most famous British vaccinator Edward Jenner and his use of cowpox to protect from smallpox and instead looks across the world at the development of some of the different vaccines against a range of diseases. Vaccination development is a process that continues to this day and recently proved its worth in tackling Covid.

Vaccines against tropical diseases such as malaria could offer huge benefits to the world and there may be the potential for vaccines to protect us against diseases not caused by infections.

I recently received an invitation for influenza vaccination as will many of us. Autumn has been the influenza vaccination season for a long time. It means that people can be offered early protection against the latest types of ‘flu virus that are likely to be circulating in the winter. Now we can add Covid vaccination to the autumn schedule for those who are at a greater risk of serious illness.

I strongly encourage all of us to take up the offer of vaccination as it offers good protection against serious illness. It is important to keep up with the recommended vaccination schedule because viruses such as influenza keep changing and are different from year to year, while some of us need more frequent vaccinations than others because our immune systems need extra help.

Now is also the time when students start at college and university. This is a great opportunity to meet and mix with other people from different places and backgrounds. However, it also means that there is a risk of infections passing from person to person.

Some diseases such as meningitis are especially common among students. It is important to be aware of the symptoms and get the best protection from vaccination for those who have not already been vaccinated.

There are three vaccinations that are especially important for students to consider. These are measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, also known as MMR, the vaccination against meningitis and the human papilloma virus vaccination or HPV. Many students will already be vaccinated with these, but if not, they can get protected and reduce their chances of becoming seriously ill. The best time to do this is before going off to college and information on vaccinations and on student health can be found on the NHS inform website.

Vaccines are important at other times too and with measles cases increasing in parts of Europe it is important to make sure we are protected with MMR. This is especially important for children starting or changing school and for people arriving in Scotland from elsewhere.

The nights may be drawing in, but I hope that we can look forward to a healthy autumn and winter regardless of our stage in life.

Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.

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