​Vaccines play an important role in the fight against germs which have become resistant to medicine.

Antimicrobial resistance is the process of micro-organisms - bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites - changing when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals.

While this occurrence is a natural one, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials is accelerating this process, according to the World Health Organisation.

Associate Professor Helen Oh, a senior consultant in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Changi General Hospital, said: "The global increase in diseases caused by drug-resistant bacteria, due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, is a major public health concern."

Vaccinating people stops them from becoming infected, thereby preventing the need for antibiotics, she added.

Dr Asok Kurup, an infectious diseases expert at Farrer Park Hospital, agreed that the inappropriate use of antibiotics is common in many healthcare settings.

"When people fall ill with certain viral infections, like influenza respiratory tract infection, they may receive not only antivirals but antibiotics as well," he added.

"Antibiotic use may be justified if there is a bacterial co-infection, but more often than not, it isn't."

The concern about antimicrobial resistance goes beyond vaccines.

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang from the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health thinks issues associated with antimicrobial resistance are greatest in the hospital setting and not in primary healthcare.

Drug-resistant microbes have the potential to spread between inpatients, causing difficult-to-treat infections that result in higher healthcare costs, longer hospitalisation, and greater risk of death, he added.

Some other ways to combat antimicrobial resistance are reducing antibiotic use and developing new antibiotics and vaccines.

But these face major challenges.

For one thing, developing novel antibiotics is extremely costly and the end result is relatively unprofitable, said Prof Hsu, who also heads the school's infectious diseases programme.

That is why most of the major pharmaceutical companies, being public-listed companies, have moved away from this area over the past decades, he added.

In addition, banning antibiotic growth promoters would require agricultural industries in non-European Union countries - the EU already has such a ban in place - to implement major changes to the way food animals are raised and increase the cost of meat at least temporarily.

This measure has always been strongly resisted by the industry.