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Timing is everything when trying to prevent disease outbreaks

Posted June 21, 2019

Vaccines save lives. Creation of vaccines was a major scientific advancement, which will be regarded as one of the most important inventions of all times. However, effectiveness of the vaccines depends on many factors. Now scientists from the University of Waterloo have found that the most effective way to prevent disease outbreaks is for the majority of the population in a particular region to be vaccinated at the same time.

Vaccines work best when they are timed well – scientists say that pulse vaccination strategy is the most effective. Image credit: James Gathany via Wikimedia

Many countries advertise influenza vaccines immediately once they show up. People are encouraged to visit doctor’s office and get vaccinated in order to prevent the disease. Normally people think that as long as they are not sick already, getting vaccines is worth it. And it’s true. But on a scale of a population timing is incredibly important in trying to prevent outbreaks. And this is what policy makers and governmental agencies that deal with vaccinations should focus on.

Scientists built up on a mathematical model of epidemics. It allows imaging how viruses spread through populations and what kind of effects can be expected. Scientists modified the model to see what kind of vaccination strategies would work the best. They found that the method called pulse vaccinations is the most effective at preventing outbreaks. Pulse vaccination is a disease control policy where, at certain times, a portion of the population is vaccinated altogether.

Kevin Church, one of the authors of the study, said: “When vaccination is added to a time-delay mathematical model of epidemics, you can in some sense dictate when infection spikes happen if the vaccine is strong and enough people get vaccinated. But if you have a weak vaccine or not enough people get it, what happens is that periods where the infectivity rates are high, meaning you have more people sick and likely to spread the disease, are going to be harder to predict”.

But what does this really mean? Well, for people it means that getting vaccines once they become available is a good idea. It will prevent the disease and will be better for general population. And for policy makers and governmental agencies it means that people should be encouraged to take vaccinations at a specific time. Timing is everything when trying to prevent outbreaks.

These findings are extremely important at this time. There were 61 cases of measles reported in Canada with 13 active cases as of the 21st week of 2019. Measles are a growing concern worldwide and scientists are trying to find ways to control the outbreak. Growing scepticism about vaccines and irresponsibility of some parents are causing a havoc. This is why it is important to remind people to get vaccinated and, if possible, to do it at the same time.


Source: University of Waterloo

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