Journal of Dental Research and Review

: 2015  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 182--183

Social vaccine and its role in oral health

Kalyana Chakravarthy Pentapati 
 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Manipal College of Dental Sciences, Manipal University, Manipal, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Kalyana Chakravarthy Pentapati
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Manipal College of Dental Sciences, Manipal University, Manipal, Karnataka


Social vaccine is the alternative term intended to change the predominant biomedical orientation of healthcare personnel toward the underlying distal and proximal factors that could lead to disease and infirmity. This report highlights the importance of social vaccine concept in the field of dentistry to have better understanding of the oral diseases and reduce the social inequality in communities.

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Pentapati KC. Social vaccine and its role in oral health.J Dent Res Rev 2015;2:182-183

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Pentapati KC. Social vaccine and its role in oral health. J Dent Res Rev [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Oct 3 ];2:182-183
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 Social Vaccine and its Role in Oral Health

Social vaccine is the alternative term intended to change the predominant biomedical orientation of healthcare personnel toward the underlying distal and proximal factors that could lead to disease and infirmity. Baum et al., believed that such a metaphor could be useful in engaging the healthcare personnel who were instilled with the so-called medical model. [1] It is defined as "A process of social and political mobilization which leads to increased government and other institutions willingness to intervene with interventions, applied to populations rather than individuals, aimed at mitigating the structural social and economic conditions that make people and communities vulnerable to disease, illness, and trauma." [1] "Medical vaccines help develop the immunity against disease, whereas social vaccines develop the ability of communities to resist and change the social and economic structures and processes that have a negative impact on health and force governments to intervene and regulate in the interests of community health." [1] Alternatively, it was simplified as "Actions that address social determinants and social inequities in society, which act as a precursor to the public health problem being addressed." [2],[3] The term social vaccine was used in the past by the UN's International Labor Organization and Global Forum on Health Research. [4] This term is designed to propagate the socioeconomic determinants of health with an aim to promote equity and social justice.

Many socioeconomic determinants that effect the general health can also have dental effects. Racial discrimination, unhealthy housing, and working conditions, food insecurity, poor transport, the polluted living environment, need for accessible, equitable, and effective health care are few determinants in a broader sense. Such factors can have direct and indirect effects on oral health. [1] For example, food insecurity could lead to malnutrition, and stunted growth with delayed milestones leading to dental effects such as delayed teeth eruption and shedding, gingivitis, dental caries, and malocclusion. Similarly, based on the extensive research that have been reported in the past, dental caries is linked to social and behavioral factors. [5] Factors that are linked to dental caries were categorized as a health system and oral health services, sociocultural risk factors, environmental risk factors along with risk behavior. [5],[6] However, social vaccine is not specific to any disease or health problem [2],[3] and has to be adapted to have public health response and many such factors that have effects on general health have implications on oral health. Hence, while formulating public health activities to improve the public health, it should be kept in mind all such factors that can effect oral health to have a broader impact and successful response.

Previously, social vaccine context was used and implemented in land rights and subsistence, restriction, and regulation of corporate advertising and progressive taxation for social security. Unequal land holding and unfair agricultural policies have been linked to large number suicides of among farmers in India. Strengthening of farmers through protests and consumer support would lead to a social vaccine that would result in political will to change unfavorable agricultural policies. Unhealthy, unethical advertising and promotion of smoking, tobacco habits, alcohol, and substitution of breast milk with infant formulas are few examples that led to the regulation of advertising restriction and regulation of corporate advertising. Progressive taxation for social security is one of the significant advances in promoting good health in developed countries. However, low-income countries lack the adequate revenue. Hence, a social movement advocating for universal social protection could be the first step in developing a social vaccine to secure the political will to implement social protection for all citizens. [1]

Social vaccines can encourage popular mobilization and advocate change in the socioeconomic conditions. They also facilitate social and political processes that promote health through action. It increases the awareness leading to resistance to unhealthy policies. Also, it needs to be spread through a population so that health promoting policies can be adapted by the government, nongovernmental organizations and other health agencies to achieve effective population coverage. [1],[3]

The risk factors for several chronic diseases are shared by oral diseases and henceforth should be addressed with common risk factor approach. [7] A systematic risk factor approach was suggested by previously which could be used in planning implementation there is a complex interplay of political, economic, environmental, and social factors that are embedded in the casual pathway disease process. Future research should improve the understanding of these processes in reducing the social inequality. Public health programs should emphasize on the assessment of systematic risk factors including socioeconomic determinants since most of these risk factors that affect general health have implications on oral health. Also, incorporating the so-called "common risk factor approach" would help the inclusion of few such risk factors to have a wider impact on many diseases with greater efficacy and effectiveness. [7],[8]


1Baum F, Narayan R, Sanders D, Patel V, Quizhpe A. Social vaccines to resist and change unhealthy social and economic structures: A useful metaphor for health promotion. Health Promot Int 2009;24:428-33.
2Thomas IN. Towards a Broader Understanding of Social Vaccine: A Discussion Paper, SOCHARA; 2006.
3Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Jun 27].
4International Labour Organization. The Magazine of the ILO: World of Work No. 32. In Search of a ′Social Vaccine′. Switzerland: International Labour Organization; 2006.
5Petersen PE. Sociobehavioural risk factors in dental caries - International perspectives. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2005;33:274-9.
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