How vaccines can fight drug resistance issue in your body

Expert says robust system of vaccination will reduce the need to use viral treatments

In Summary

• "Covid is a perfect example where vaccines have changed the course of the pandemic therefore, vaccines for antimicrobial resistance could change it's course,"

• "Once you have been vaccinated you will able to avoid taking antibiotics and will help scrap off the financial catastrophe that comes with antimicrobial use,"Gachoka said.

Vaccination in process
Vaccination in process
Image: FILE

As the world marks antimicrobial awareness week, healthcare practitioners are leading a campaign to address increased drug resistance cases.

The awareness week is meant to promote the curbing of antimicrobial resistance(AMR).

Antimicrobials are medicines used to treat infections, they include antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and antiparasitics.

A medical specialists has explained how vaccine plays a major role in reducing the mortality, morbidity, disability and financial catastrophe caused by AMR.

Jacob Shabani,a family medicine and cardiovascular specialist at Aga Khan University Hospital said that the most important aspect is figuring out how you can boost your immunity to prevent diseases.

"Over the years, the increase use of vaccines has proven to stem the occurrence of unnecessary diseases and unwarranted infections," he said.

Shabani gave an analogy of Louis Pastueur, a French chemist,  who introduced pasteurisation of milk, where it is heated to eradicate bacteria to make it safe for use.

The cardiovascular specialist said that vaccines have significantly helped eradicate small pox, polio, measles, mumps and rubella by preventing their occurence completely.

"Vaccination has been successful in children, however, it is quite low for adults," Shabani said.

"Covid is a perfect example where vaccines have changed the course of the pandemic therefore, vaccines for antimicrobial resistance could change it's course,"

He used another analogy of a country under attack where the best way to approach it is to train your soldiers to recognise the enemy.

A patient receiving a vaccine.
A patient receiving a vaccine.
Image: FILE

"Our body works in a similar way, when the immune system is attacked by foreign bodies, it immediately mounts a response and produces antibodies," Shabani said.

"Nonetheless,the success fighting off the foreign bodies is determined by the experience the body got from the first similar situation,"

He added that if a well trained army will know the tactics it will fight the enemy better.

Shabani said that the benefits of the vaccines are more than the side effects and that if you have a robust system of vaccinating against the flu, you will reduce the need to use viral treatments.

He added that cases of pneumonia among the elderly have reduced in countries where people aged 65 and above were vaccinated.

He further said myths about vaccines concerning infertility issues need to be debunked by health practitioners and they should tell patients about the possible risks.

He gave an example of the pneumococcal bacteria which not only causes pneumonia but it could cause life threatening diseases such a meningitis and chronic ear problems.

The specialist said vaccines are medicines and they will definitely have side effects but that should not make people turn away from the future lifelong benefits.

Sylvia Gachoka, the KDF Memorial Hospital’s infectious disease specialist says in 2019, the World Health Organization declared AMR a global pandemic.

"There was an upsurge of use of antibiotics especially when Covid came since majority of people exhibited flu-like symptoms. Antibiotics such as azithromycin were heavily misused," she said.

Gachoka said that drugs used for bacterial infections cannot work for viral infections and antimicrobials should be used only when necessary for the right infection.

She said that over the counter antibiotics should be avoided completely.

The specialist added that in this case, when you take antibiotics and they do not clear the virus present in the body, it could lead to a worse situation.

This will result to longer hospital stays, purchasing even more expensive antibiotics which is costly and time consuming.

Gachoka says we should always see health specialists first to get a proper diagnosis.

"A health professional will know the cause and diagnosis correctly which will help in proper administration of the right medication"she said.

"Do not use previously prescribed antibiotics to treat a different infection because different antibiotics are used for different infections. Always take the one prescribed to you," Gachoka said.

"Ensure you take your antibiotics and complete the dose otherwise the bacteria may become resistant because you didn't complete the dose.

"Once you have been vaccinated you will able to avoid taking antibiotics and this will help curb the financial catastrophe that comes with antimicrobial use."

INEFFECTIVE: Antibiotics

Modern antimicrobials were first discovered in 1930 and since then,many diseases that were presumed untreatable and life threatening have been cured.

Resistance occurs when the virus or bacteria changes overtime and become less susceptible to treatment.

Pfizer said this predicament makes infectious diseases more difficult to treat which could lead to prolonged illness, disability and even death.

"Misuse and overuse of these drugs are the main causes of drug resistance,"Pfizer said.

Additionally, they warned that this situation is escalating drastically.

"By 2050, it is estimated that approximately 10 million people will die annually due to antimicrobial resistance,"they said.

Vaccines have the potential to contribute to the reduction and control of AMR significantly since they protect people by preventing transmission of infections.

By preventing infections, they will also reduce the use of antibiotics which will lead to the reduction of AMR use.

Furthermore, they will ensure that available antimicrobials will not be used for a long time and reduce the development of AMR issues.

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