Vaccines: The Greatest Live-Saving Health Success

This article was originally published here

Vaccines have proven to be one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the 20th century. Safe and effective vaccination has had a significant impact on global health by saving lives and increasing life expectancy. They not only protect the person receiving the vaccine, but also helps prevent the spread of potentially deadly diseases. As the U.S. health leaders, the CDC strongly supports protecting the world with recommended vaccinations. They work tirelessly around the globe to help prevent sickness and save lives. The CDC MMWR reports vaccines to be one of the “Ten Great Public Health Achievements” both in the U.S. and Worldwide.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans – more than 80 percent, in a recent Pew Research Center survey – believe in the benefits of childhood vaccinations. As the lead author simply stated, “public health benefits from vaccines hinge on very high levels of immunization in the population.” This is why adhering to the CDC’s immunization schedule of recommended vaccines is the best way to protect those that are most vulnerable – such as infants and young children. Furthermore, the CDC’s National Immunization Survey results showed that the U.S. continues to be the leading example with high immunization rates, and most children are up-to-date and fully vaccinated.

Heat maps published in The Wall Street Journal titled “Battling Infectious Diseases in the 20th Century: The Impact of Vaccines” help to easily visualize the impact vaccines have had against infectious diseases. With 70+ years of data from across all 50 states and D.C., they examined seven infectious disease: measles, hepatitis A, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella, and smallpox. Upon vaccine introduction, these heat maps show a decline of infection from these diseases. Thanks to live-saving vaccines, the battle against these infectious diseases in the 20th Century looks very different.

With a number of infectious disease being a thing of the past, it should come as no surprise that ABC News listed vaccines at the top of their “10 Health Advances That Changed the World” list:

Throughout history, communicable diseases have had a tremendous impact on human history. So too, then, has the development of one of the most effective ways to defend against rampant viral infection — vaccination.

Through decades of innovation, it’s easy to see why vaccines and their positive impact are first on this list. The development of vaccination has been one of the most effective ways to defend against infections. From a global health standpoint, vaccine discovery has saved endless lives and continues to change the world.

In addition to their public health benefits, vaccines also provide tremendous social and economic value. A recent study in the American Journal of Managed Care found that by preventing illness and premature deaths, vaccination of children born in the United States in 2009 will generate $184 billion in lifetime social value, or about $45,000 per child. Of this, about two percent ($3.4 billion) accrues to vaccine manufacturers in the form of profits, while the remaining 98% ($180.7 billion) is retained by society.

Vaccination might only be a few hundred years old, but it also makes top 10 of “The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel” – which was about 6,000 years ago. The Atlantic surveyed scientists, historians, and technologists – who ranked vaccines above the internet in terms of impact on modern life.

Vaccines have proven their ability to save lives time and time again, and we should continue to celebrate their success.

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