VALUE OF VACCINATION
The power of vaccines in saving lives
Without vaccines, millions of us would not be alive today.
Since the 1980s when immunisation began ramping up around the world, vaccines have saved lives that would otherwise have been lost early in childhood. Lives of people who would go on to have their own children, contribute to society and boost their country’s development.
The eradication of smallpox in 1979 remains one of humanity’s greatest achievements. It was only made possible with vaccination. Polio is set to be next, with cases falling from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to 140 in 2020.
Between 1990 and 2017, immunisation has helped to halve the number of deaths of children under five years old.
Basic vaccine coverage is measured by DTP3 — a third dose of a diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus-containing vaccine. In lower-income countries this has increased from 59% to 81% in the past two decades.
In the early 2000s, only 3% of low-income countries were giving children a vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type b (hib), a virus that can cause bacterial meningitis; now all low-income countries provide a pentavalent vaccine that protects against hib, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and hepatitis B.
By the end of 2020, 84% of children globally had received one dose of measles-containing vaccine by their second birthday.
As proud as the world can be about massively ramping up the delivery of essential vaccines worldwide, we have a long road ahead to reach the most vulnerable children. Nearly 17 million ‘zero-dose’ kids never get a single dose of basic vaccines. This matters, because children who receive no vaccines are also most likely to be those who are already at the highest risk of infectious diseases like measles and tetanus, with nearly 50% of them living in cities, remote rural areas or conflict zones.
Not getting a single vaccination also triggers a cascade of collateral damage. Vaccines unlock a range of health services, and provide a connection point between families and primary health services at least five times during the first year of a child’s life alone. These include services for pregnant mothers as well as nutrition, de-worming and other health services for their children.
The pandemic has caused the number of zero-dose children to rise for the first time in decades, making the global effort to protect them with vaccines more urgent than ever.