Immunization has been a great public health success story. The lives of millions of children have been saved, millions have the chance of a longer healthier life, a greater chance to learn, to play, to read and write, to move around freely without suffering.
Vaccination saves lives
One hundred years ago, infectious diseases were the main cause of death worldwide, even in the most developed countries. Today, there is a vast range of vaccines available to protect against 26 infectious diseases – and there are new vaccines on the horizon with the potential to prevent even more.
Consistent wide-spread use of vaccine has proven successful in controlling or even eliminating disease. Before a vaccination campaign eliminated all natural occurrences of smallpox in 1980, the disease threatened 60% of the world’s population and killed one out of four victims.
In 2008, about 82% of all infants worldwide received 3 doses of pertussis vaccine. WHO estimates that, in 2008, global vaccination against pertussis averted about 687 000 deaths.
Vaccines save money
Vaccines certainly prevent death and suffering, but they also save money. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective health-care investments available.
In the United States, cost-benefit analysis indicates that every dollar invested in a vaccine dose saves US$2 to US$27 in health-care expenses.
The eradication of smallpox alone has saved the United States more than US$3 billion between 1983 and 1994. The benefits are just as striking if one looks to the future.
In 2016, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health assessed the economic benefits of vaccines in 94 low- and middle-income countries using projected vaccination rates from 2011 to 2020. When taking into account the broader economic impact of illness, vaccinations save $44 for every dollar spent.
In spite of its undisputed success of immunization efforts, 1.5 million deaths still occur each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Increasing and sustained immunization efforts have allowed to eradicate small-pox and to lower the global incidence of polio so far by 99%. Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles and Hib were also dramatically reduced preventing illness, disability and death over the years. But immunization is still an ongoing challenge.
Globally, immunization coverage has increased by only 1% globally since 2010 for all vaccine-preventable diseases. But the differences from one country to another remain very important. In 2015, an estimated 19.4 million infants worldwide were not reached with routine immunization services such as diphteria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine (DTP3). Around 60% of these children live in 10 countries: Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Ukraine.
History clearly shows that a decrease in immunization coverage sets the stage of the reappearance of disease in previously protected populations.
During 2012, 48,277 cases of pertussis were reported to CDC, including 20 pertussis-related deaths. This was the most reported cases since 1955. This clearly illustrates that continued vigilance and maximizing vaccine coverage are crucial to control and eradicate some infectious diseases in the future.
To protect and improve human health worldwide Sanofi Pasteur makes a major contribution to meeting global goals outlined in the Vaccines Alliance (Gavi) milestones for selective immunization goals. These include by 2020, all countries are aiming to achieve vaccination coverage of at least 90% nationally and at least 80% in every district.
With stable and high vaccination coverage, disease declines and can even be eliminated. For example, polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 19 reported cases as of December 22, 2017. As a result of the global effort to eradicate the disease, more than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis.
According to the WHO, as long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.
For more information, please consult the World Health Organization web site.