Impact of the vaccine revolution
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.
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
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
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