Vaccinations are among the most important and effective means of preventing disease in the medical toolbox. Modern vaccines are safe and adverse effects only occur in sporadic cases. People get vaccinated mostly to protect themselves from infectious disease. However, vaccinations are not only effective in the vaccinated individuals themselves (individual protection), but can indirectly protect also unvaccinated persons (herd immunity) by stopping or slowing the spread of an infectious disease.
In Germany, vaccinations are not required by law. The Federal Ministry of Health has set up an independent expert panel, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO), to draw up and update vaccination recommendations. The STIKO’s recommendations stipulate which immunisations are relevant for public and individual health protection by preventing communicable diseases. Members of the statutory health insurance are eligible to receive these recommended immunisations free of charge. However, this does not include vaccinations for private travel abroad.
There has been a clear increase in immunisation uptake. Paediatric immunisation rates, in particular, have been steadily rising over the last decade. However, gaps still persist in childhood vaccinations against pertussis, hepatitis B and the second dose of measles vaccine, mumps and rubella. Adolescents and adults, too, have inadequate vaccination protection. Especially vaccination coverage rates for measles still fall short of those recommended by the World Health Organization.
Human Papillomaviruses are sexually transmitted pathogens that infect about 70 to 80 per cent of all sexually active women and men over their lifetime. There are more than 100 different types of this virus known to science. Especially the high-risk HPV types 16 and 18 can cause mutations in cervical cells that, in turn, can lead to precancerous lesions and, in rare instances, cervical cancer. To lower the disease burden from cervical cancer, all girls between the ages of 9 and 14 years should get HPV vaccination (types HPV 16, 18). Specifically, they should catch up on any missed HPV vaccinations by their 18th birthday at the latest and the full vaccination course should be completed before their first sex.