April sees Immunisation Week, and it is easy to underestimate the importance that vaccines play in routine healthcare and the fight against infectious disease. As LSTM reflects on 125 years of global health impact, we look at this key component in helping us fulfil our mission in reducing sickness burden across the world.
From building capacity in low-and-middle income countries, to working with communities to ensure the uptake of health interventions across the world, LSTM is a world leader in the field of vaccine research. Dr Andrea Collins is Clinical Lead for the Liverpool Vaccine Research Group, which is the team that was part of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial. The team in Liverpool works to understand several pathogens, including the bacteria that causes pneumonia, with the aim of developing effective vaccines for this infectious disease that kills more children under the age of five years, around the world compared to HIV, malaria and measles combined. Using a unique human challenge model, they are carrying out research to understand how healthy people are able to carry the bacteria without becoming sick.
Their work also spans into developing human challenge models to accelerate vaccine and treatment discovery for infectious diseases including TB. The expansion of the research facilities in Liverpool with the funded 12 bed inpatient Human Challenge Facility will further advance drug discovery and create a centre for excellence in research.
Dr Collins said: “It is vital that we all take up our vaccinations to protect ourselves and our communities from these infectious diseases.”
While many in Liverpool rushed to take part in the COVID vaccine trials, the uptake among the people of the city for resulting COVID vaccines was relatively low. Using learnings from successful interventions in Kenya, LSTM worked with Liverpool City Council at a community level to increase uptake with underserved communities with low COVID-19 vaccine uptake.
Amina Ismail is a Senior Community Mobiliser for the project, which has now progressed from focusing on vaccine equity to broader health equity and is working at the heart of several communities in Liverpool to understand the barriers that people face in accessing health interventions, including routine childhood immunisations including MMR which has significantly dropped since the pandemic.
The theme for this year’s Immunisation Week is the ‘Big Catch Up’, helping get back on track with routine immunisation following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Amina and her team in LSTM are working with health service partners and communities to play our part.
Amina said: “We need to work with communities to co-develop an approach to increase uptake in childhood immunisations.”
While routine immunisation protects us throughout our lives, and vaccines developed for infectious diseases have shown us a way through global pandemics, it is also important to understand that vaccination contributes to reducing your health risks while travelling or working overseas, and the best way of achieving this is to seek advice from travel experts. LSTM’s Well Travelled Clinics (WTC) in Liverpool and Chester, provide pre-travel screenings to help protect you while you are away, including vaccinations for yellow fever and rabies. Jane Rowles is Senior Nurse at WTC, and her advice to travellers is clear: “By using WTC’s services you will be supporting the work LSTM do to control diseases of poverty and to develop more effective systems for healthcare in the less developed countries. We are privileged in the UK to have easy access to vaccines, and it is important to get protected before travelling other parts of the world where disease risks are high.
“The travel health consultation is a good opportunity for travellers to ensure they are up to date with all routine vaccines required for general life in the UK too.”
Our work in vaccine research continues at pace in LSTM, and while many people across the region took part in vaccine trials for COVID, there is still an opportunity for the public to play their part in research for the development of new vaccines. Nurse Angie Hyder-Wright is a senior member of the Liverpool Vaccine Group, listen to her talking about the importance of getting involved to BBC Radio Merseyside.
If you want to be part of LSTM's next 125 years of global health impact, there is an opportunity to get involved in vaccine research by volunteering. Let's continue to prioritise vaccines and work towards a healthier, safer world for all.
For further information on how to become a volunteer please Text: 2VOL to 88802.