For as long as there have been illnesses, humankind has tried to treat and prevent them. When the first symptoms of illness appear, the diagnosis can be defined in various ways. If possible and desired, a therapy that is focused on healing can subsequently be applied, namely curative medicine.

As in many fields of life, and also in the fields of health and healthcare, the prevailing view is that prevention is not only as good as but even better than cure, this has led to the development of a separate branch of healthcare, preventive medicine.

Preventive medicine focuses on for instance having a healthy lifestyle: no smoking, healthy food, regular physical movement, proper hygiene, dental care etc. And also general measures such as: no uncovered limbs when walking through high shrubbery (preventing tick bites), mosquito nets in the tropics (preventing malaria) and the application of sun creams (preventing skin cancer).

Illnesses (or complications) can also be prevented by medicines. Well-known examples are: anti-malaria tablets when travelling to the tropics, and antibiotics for certain (usually orthopaedic) operations. Really, anti-epileptics are also classified under this, considering an intervention is not only made when a seizure occurs. Another form of preventive medicine is: vaccination.

What is vaccination?

With a vaccination, a person who is not (yet) ill is administered a small dosage of a strongly weakened or often dead disease agent (a bacteria or virus) in order to activate the immune system. The production of antibodies for the benefit of the vaccination is usually sufficient to prevent the illness(es) that are being vaccinated against from occurring. The so-called immunisation thus caused often remains active for years and sometimes for life.

Risks connected with vaccination

If use is made of strongly weakened pathogens, there is a slight danger of the vaccinated person still contracting the illness. This risk is excluded if dead pathogens are used.

Consequence of not vaccinating

If someone decides not to be vaccinated, there is a chance that that person contracts the condition in question. That chance may well be extremely small, if the majority of those in the immediate vicinity have been vaccinated. There is then a protective zone as it were of immunised people surrounding the non-vaccinated person, so one benefits from this indirectly.