According to the WHO, vaccines have saved at least 154 million lives over the past 50 years.

Landmark WHO study to be published in The Lancet shows global immunization efforts have generated savings approximately 154 million lives (or the equivalent of 6 lives every minute of every year) over the past 50 years. The vast majority of lives saved (101 million) were infants.

Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that immunization is the greatest contribution of any health intervention to ensuring that children not only reach their first birthday, but also continue to lead healthy lives into adulthood.

Of the vaccines included in the study, The measles vaccine has had the most significant impact on reducing child mortality, accounting for 60% of the lives saved by immunization. This vaccine is likely to remain a major contribution to preventing deaths in the future.

Over the past 50 years, vaccination against 14 diseases (diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type B, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, measles, meningitis A, whooping cough, invasive pneumococcal disease, polio, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus, tuberculosis and yellow fever) increased and directly contributed to a reduction in child mortality by 40% globally and by more than 50% in the African Region.

“Vaccines are among the most powerful inventions in history, preventing previously feared diseases,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Thanks to vaccines, smallpox has been eradicated, polio is on the brink, and with the recent development of vaccines against diseases such as malaria and cervical cancer, we are pushing the boundaries of disease. Through continued research, investment and collaboration, we can save millions of lives today and over the next 50 years.”.

The study found that for every life saved through immunization, another an average of 66 years of full health were achieved, for a total of 10.2 billion years of full health. achieved over five decades. Thanks to polio vaccination, more than 20 million people who would otherwise be paralyzed are now able to walk, and the world is on the verge of eradicating polio once and for all.

These advances in child survival underscore the importance of protecting immunization progress around the world and accelerating efforts to reach the 67 million children who missed one or more vaccines during the pandemic.

Expanding access

This study, published in May ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), represents the most comprehensive analysis of the program’s impact on global and regional health over the past five decades.

Today, the program, now called the Essential Immunization Program, includes universal vaccination recommendations for 13 diseases and specific recommendations for 17 other diseases, expanding immunization coverage not only for children but also for adolescents and adults.

The study highlights that less At the launch of the EPI, 5% of children worldwide had access to routine immunization. Today, 84% of infants are protected with three doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) vaccine, a global measure of immunization coverage.

“Thanks to vaccines, more children are surviving and thriving beyond their fifth birthday than at any other time in history,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “This huge achievement is a credit to the collective efforts of governments, partners, scientists, health workers, civil society, volunteers and parents themselves, all moving in the same direction to protect children from killer diseases.” “We must build on this momentum and ensure that every child everywhere has access to life-saving vaccines.”

In 2000, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance was created, with WHO, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) as core founding members, to expand the impact of the EPI and help the world’s poorest countries increase coverage and benefit. from new life-saving vaccines and expand protection against a growing number of vaccine-preventable diseases. These intensified efforts in the most vulnerable parts of the world have helped save more lives and further improve vaccine equity. Today Gavi has helped protect a generation of children and provides vaccines against 20 infectious diseases, including the HPV vaccine and vaccines against outbreaks of measles, cholera, yellow fever, Ebola and meningitis.

“Gavi was created to build on the partnerships and progress made possible by the EPI and strengthen our focus on protecting the most vulnerable people around the world,” said Sania Nishtar, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “In just over two decades, we have seen incredible progress: we have protected more than a billion children, we have helped cut child mortality in these countries by half, and we have delivered billions in economic benefits. Vaccines are truly the best investment we can make to ensure that everyone, no matter where they were born, has an equal right to a healthy future :d“We must ensure these efforts are fully funded to protect the progress made and help countries meet their current life challenges.”

Immunization programs have become the mainstay of primary health care in communities and countries due to their wide reach and coverage. They not only provide vaccination opportunities, but also provide other vital support, including nutritional support, maternal tetanus prevention, disease screening and the distribution of bed nets to protect families from diseases such as malaria.

Modest count

Because the study only covers the health effects of vaccination against 14 diseases, the number of lives saved by vaccination is a conservative estimate and not a complete report of the life-saving impact of vaccines. Social, economic and educational impacts on health and well-being over the past 50 years have also contributed to further declines in mortality. Today, vaccines exist to protect against more than 30 life-threatening diseases.

Although the HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer in adults, was not included in the study, it is expected to prevent many deaths in the future as countries work to increase immunization rates aimed at eliminating cervical cancer by 2030. COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and meningitis, as well as the cholera and Ebola vaccines used during outbreaks, will save more lives over the next 50 years.

“Global immunization programs have demonstrated what is possible for people when many stakeholders, including heads of state, regional and global health agencies, scientists, charities, aid agencies, businesses and communities, work together,” says WHO.

New campaign

WHO, UNICEF, Gavi and BMGF are launching a joint Human Possible campaign to mark the annual World Immunization Week, 24–30 April 2024. The global communications campaign calls on world leaders to promote, support and fund vaccines and immunization programs. who provide these vital products, reaffirming your commitment to public health while celebrating one of humanity’s greatest achievements. The next 50 years of EPI will require not only reaching unvaccinated children, but also protecting grandparents from influenza, mothers from tetanus, teenagers from HPV, and everyone from tuberculosis and many other infectious diseases.

“It is inspiring to see that vaccines have been made possible over the past 50 years thanks to the tireless efforts of governments, global partners and health officials to make them more accessible to more people,” said Chris Elias, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Global development. “We cannot allow this incredible progress to slow down. “If we continue to invest in immunization, we can ensure that every child – and every person – has the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life.”

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