Prevention also involves providing correct information, even when it comes to vaccines. This is the message that Professor Alberto Mantovani, immunologist, scientific director of Humanitas and lecturer at Humanitas University, yesterday launched at the Cuore and Denari show on Radio24.
“I think there are several reasons why the issue of vaccines is so deeply divided. The first reason why we don’t realize the importance of vaccines is because they are victims of their success, or rather, today we no longer have any idea what polio is because we are vaccinating against it and we should perhaps read a book like Philip Roth’s Nemesis to remind us what this disease is. However, diseases such as polio or diphtheria have not disappeared spontaneously and if we do not vaccinate, they will return.
The second reason is lies, such as the resounding lie that there is a connection between autism and vaccination, particularly against measles. The author of this lie has a name, Wakefield, and was expelled from the English Medical Association precisely because of this lie,” says Prof. Mantovani.
Immunity of communities
“We also have no perception of the solidarity value of vaccination. I have recently vaccinated my grandchild with chickenpox, symbolically fastening his seat belt, but I have also fastened the seat belt to all those children and adults who cannot, because the vaccine is ineffective or not feasible in them. The protection of these children and non-vaccinable adults depends on the immunity of communities (or flocks) because if we are vaccinated in sufficient numbers we prevent viruses from circulating. There is this dimension of solidarity inherent in vaccination, which we must not forget.
Vaccine is the best training
“Finally, the idea has spread that natural disease is good for us, that a measles infection is good for growth and strengthening our immune system: there is nothing more wrong, these pathogens know the immune system and cause a deep and long-lasting immunosuppression of up to two years. My slogan is that the best training for the body is the vaccine,” Mantovani points out.
Vaccines, when benefits outweigh risks
“First of all, we are called to great and absolute transparency. Any medical intervention is based on an assessment of benefits and risks. Let’s take the example of measles vaccination, which is one of the most questioned: at least 20% of those who have measles have serious problems, about one patient per thousand will have a serious problem with encephalitis (many of which are sclerosant and therefore non-reversible). There are problems with the vaccine, but it is a case of encephalitis in less than one in a million people, and among other cases we talk about benign encephalitis,” concludes Prof. Mantovani.