Vaccines are one of the most efficient ways of saving lives and keeping people healthy
Being immunised through vaccination is one of modern medicine's most powerful ways to save lives and prevent illness from potentially fatal infectious diseases. Few other health interventions have had such a major effect on mortality reduction.1 Vaccines' track record speaks for itself:
- Smallpox: declared eradicated by WHO in 1979 after a global vaccination effort.
- Polio: endemic in 125 countries in 1988, causing approximately 350,000 cases; today endemic in only three countries, with an estimated 74 cases in 2015.2,3
- Measles: in the 2000-2015 period, widespread vaccination reduced the number of measles deaths by 79%; saving more than 20 million lives.4
- Meningitis A: in three regions of Chad, efforts to vaccinate 1.8 million people led to a 94% decrease in meningitis rates.5
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib): Hib vaccine, introduced in Uganda in 2002, has virtually eliminated Hib meningitis there. In Kilifi, Kenya, invasive Hib disease decreased by more than 90% in the 12 years following vaccine introduction.6
- Rotavirus: in Mexico, phased introduction of rotavirus vaccine in 2006 and 2007 was followed by a 56% reduction in diarrhoea mortality.7
EXPANDED PROGRAMME ON IMMUNIZATION
The global effort to extend vaccination to developing countries began in 1974, when WHO founded the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). This initiative helped countries establish the infrastructure to deliver a package of six vaccine antigens, protecting against tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles and polio.
Throughout the 1980s, WHO and UNICEF joined forces to achieve universal childhood immunisation with the six EPI vaccines. Today, all developing countries have national immunisation programmes and most of the world's children are immunised with at least these vaccines.
By 2015, vaccination was averting between 2 and 3 million deaths every year from measles, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis alone.8
SURGE OF NEW VACCINES
The last 25 years have seen a surge in the number of new vaccines, with more than 30 common infectious diseases now preventable through immunisation.
Since the launch of Gavi in 2000, more and more developing countries have introduced relatively new vaccines, such as pneumococcal, rotavirus, hepatitis B and Hib vaccines, into their routine vaccination programmes.
With support from Gavi, hepatitis B and Hib vaccines are now provided in all the world’s low-income countries – from only around 5% in 2000. Pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, which protect against pneumonia and diarrhoea – the two leading causes of child death – have been introduced in the majority of the world’s poorest countries.
Since 2012 Gavi supports HPV vaccines, which protect women against the most common types of cervical cancer. The vast majority of cervical cancer deaths occur in developing countries. It is estimated that HPV vaccination in Gavi-supported countries in 2016-2020 could help prevent 600,000 deaths in the long term.