Vaccines are sometimes associated with a, often unjustified, fear of side effects, but a study from Umeå University shows that the opposite may be true. It is the doctor and doctoral student Urban Johansson Kostenniemi who in his dissertation has discovered a connection between vaccination at a young age and reduced risk of mental disorders in adulthood .
What Urban Johansson Kostenniemi investigated is how meningitis and other serious infections decreased in Västerbotten County after children began to be vaccinated against Haemophilus influenzae type b and pneumococci. The result was that vaccination against haemophilus reduced the number of cases of meningitis by 82 percent. When the children then also received the vaccine against pneumococci, the number of cases fell by a further 48 percent.
Urban Johansson Kostenniemi then went through patient records for those who had meningitis as a child to see what happened later in life. It turned out that half had some form of injury or disability with mental illness as the most common problem.
The problems often appeared long after the people had meningitis so the connection was not obvious. But Urban Johansson Kostenniemi's research indicates that vaccination can provide extra benefits in addition to protecting against a potentially fatal disease.
- It may not be a given to link mental problems in adulthood with not having received a vaccine in childhood. But the brain is our most complicated organ, and infections early in life can lead to brain damage. That is why it is important to do what we can to protect the children and their brains, says Urban Johansson Kostenniemi.
Meningitis is a slightly insidious disease that can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. If it is a virus that causes the inflammation, it often goes away on its own without causing any serious harm. However, if bacteria are the cause, it can lead to severe blood poisoning, pneumonia and, in the worst case, death.