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Why are Vaccines Invaluable
By Themedica on January 12, 2009 9:25 AM |
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As the quest for newer and better medicines continues, and with the long drawn process of pharmaceutical drug development playing the speed bump, patients around the world hope for a miracle cure for many diseases. Amidst the mayhem have we overlooked the real worth of vaccines in mitigating diseases.

why-vaccines-are-invaluable.jpg Impact of the vaccine revolution

The practice modern vaccination dates back to about 200 years, when in  1798 the first vaccine for smallpox and the first vaccine for any disease was publicized by Edward Jenner in England. Since then vaccines have proved  to be among the most effective measures in terms of cost and in decreasing the spread of disease. Vaccination is also supposed to be the best measure for arresting mortality, just next to the supply of clean drinking water.

Statistics pertaining to vaccines serve as a testament to the fact they are simply invaluable. For example, Immunization by vaccines has led to the eradication of smallpox around the world, while for diseases such as polio and measles, regional  eradication has been achieved.

Today, projections reveal that vaccines save the lives of more than 2 million  children annually. From the period extending 2000 to 2006, deaths due to measles were reduced by good 68%. Further, according to  projections, another 10 million  deaths due to measles can be averted over the next decade if immunization efforts are sustained.

The progress and outreach of immunization

The spread of inoculation gained momentum after the introduction of the  Expanded Programme on  Immunization (EPI) by WHO in 1974.

As of today, developing countries are increasingly  implementing immunization against diseases such as hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae b (Hib) and  yellow fever, aside from the basic vaccinations for   tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, polio, and tuberculosis.

At the same time since the launch of another initiative, the GAVI Alliance (or the Global  Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization)  in the year 2000, statistics of vaccination have only gotten better. Consequently, by 2007 an additional 36.8 million children received basic immunization against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. These figures translate into an improvement in vaccination rates from 20% in 1980 to about 80% in 2006.

Vaccines are cost effective

Aside from saving lives, another alluring benefit of vaccines is derived  from their cost-effectiveness. According to a research conducted in Kenya, a measles vaccination running for a week covering 13 million children can prevent  3,850,000 infections and 125,000 deaths. These figures when projected over a ten-year period can save about $12 million in healthcare costs. A similar cost-benefit  analysis in the US concluded that for every dollar  spent on vaccines resulted in savings  between  $2 and $27 in healthcare costs.

Vaccines are also valuable because in comparison to conventional pharmaceutical drugs, these drugs are designed to prevent rather than manage or cure disease. They stimulate our own immune system to fortify itself by producing antibodies in advance, even before any disease causing micro-organism steps on to our bodies.

The medical industry with its effort has been able to produce a wide range of vaccines  against at least 25 infectious diseases, and vaccines for many more diseases are still under development. Some of the devastating infections and diseases for which vaccines are being worked on include chlamydia, HIV, colorectal cancer, multiple sclerosis, SARS, tuberculosis, malaria, West Nile and dengue fever.

Perhaps through the concerted efforts of the pharmaceutical industry and governments, the development, production, supply of vaccines and mass immunization programs will not only save countless lives, but also save billions in health care costs, uncovering the true value of vaccines.


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