Vaccination is a safe and effective way of protecting against certain infectious diseases. Prior to the introduction of routine vaccination of children, infectious diseases were a leading cause of death at global level, and over the years vaccination has succeeded in limiting and eradicating many such diseases.
Vaccination protects yourself and others
Although some infectious diseases are currently very rare or unknown in Slovenia, a small number of unvaccinated people could lead to their return, as has happened in recent years in certain European countries, where a rising number of measles cases is bringing unwanted consequences.
By getting vaccinated against infectious diseases, we therefore not only protect ourselves, but also indirectly protect others (herd immunity) to stop the spread of these diseases. This is particularly important for those who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons (e.g. an underlying condition that is incompatible with vaccination).
Safety of vaccination
The expert view is that the risk of any individual being harmed by a vaccination is significantly lower than the risk posed by the disease itself, which could lead to more severe consequences than vaccination.
The decision to use a vaccine is based on extensive research, and on experience of the benefits that vaccination brings to individuals and the population at large. Before being authorised for mass use, vaccines must undergo numerous tests, and the safety and efficacy of the vaccine is monitored throughout use. The safety of the vaccine is consistently monitored at all stages of testing. The evidence for the safety and efficacy of all vaccines authorised for use in Slovenia is verified by the Slovenian Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices (JAZMP) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Procedures for obtaining a mass vaccination authorisation for a specific vaccine may take several years.
As with any medical intervention, in addition to the great benefits, vaccination is accompanied by a certain degree of risk. Adverse side effects are possible, and are monitored at the National Institute of Public Health.
Maintaining high vaccination coverage of the target population is crucial to preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Optimal protection requires coverage of more than 95% of the target population, for which reason governments work to ensure that a high proportion of the public remain covered. Europe has been highly successful in preventing infectious diseases through vaccination, as most Europeans appreciate its benefits, and get vaccinated in line with professional recommendations.
The national vaccination programme in Slovenia, which is drawn up each year by the National Institute of Public Health and is approved by the health minister in the form of a rulebook, provides for vaccination against a number of infectious diseases for all children and young people, and also for older people with various health indications.
The 2019/202 season is covered by the Rulebook laying down the vaccination and medical protection programme.
Mandatory and optional vaccination
In Slovenia, mandatory vaccinations are an integral part of the work programme and financial plan of healthcare institutions and private physicians. For insured persons, these are financed from compulsory health insurance and, for the beneficiaries referred to in Article 7 of the Healthcare and Health Insurance Act, from the state budget.
Mandatory vaccination of children
A calendar of regular vaccinations for pre-school and school-age children can be found in the Child immunisation booklet — for parents (NIPH)
Optional free vaccination of children, girls and adults
The vaccination and medical protection programme provides for certain target groups to be vaccinated free of charge, the costs being covered by compulsory health insurance.
- Optional vaccination against pneumococcal infections for pre-school children started in Slovenia in 2015. The vaccine consists of three doses, and may be carried out at the same time as other vaccinations when the child undergoes a full check-up. In their first year of age children are given two doses of a conjugate vaccine (e.g. at the same time as the first and second doses or first and third doses of the pentavalent vaccine), and another dose in their second year (generally at the same time as the first dose of MMR vaccine).
- Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) infections is also optional, and since 2015 has been available free of charge to girls in year six of primary school. To aid in making the decision, the NIPH has prepared informative material about vaccination against HPV.
- The national vaccination programme was also extended in 2019 to cover tick-borne meningoencephalitis (TBE). Free vaccination is be available to selected age groups: adults aged 49, and children aged three. More information (NIPH)