Importance of immunization programmes
Each year, vaccines prevent more than 2.5 million child deaths globally. An additional 2 million child deaths could be prevented each year through immunizationImmunizationThe process by which a person or animal becomes protected against a disease through an enhancement of their immune response. This term is different from vaccination which is a form of immunization where the body learns to recognize a particular foreign object (active immunization). Passive immunization can be provided by administering external antibodies that will temporarily help strengthen the body's response without inducing memory against a specific foreign object. with currently available vaccines.2
Why are vaccines so special?
- Vaccines promote health: unlike many other health interventions, they help healthy people stay healthy, removing a major obstacle to human development.
- Vaccines have an expansive reach: they protect individuals, communities, and entire populations (the eradicationEradicationThe complete and permanent worldwide reduction to zero new cases of an infectious disease through deliberate efforts; no further control measures are required. of smallpoxSmallpoxAn acute, highly infectious, often fatal disease caused by a variola virus and characterized by high fever and aches with subsequent widespread eruption of pimples that blister, produce pus, and form pockmarks. Declared eradicated by the World Health Assembly in 1980. is a case in point).
- Vaccines have rapid impact: the impact of most vaccines on communities and populations is almost immediate. For example, between 2000 and 2008, vaccination reduced global deaths from measlesMeaslesA contagious viral disease marked by fever, the eruption of red circular spots on the skin that can be deadly to young and weakened individuals. by 78% (from 750 000 deaths to 164 000 deaths per year).3
- Vaccines save lives and costs: recently, a panel of distinguished economists put expanded immunization coverage for children in fourth place on a list of 30 cost-effectiveCost-effectiveThis refers to a type of economic analysis that allows comparison of different intervention options by estimating the cost per health outcome for each alternative intervention. It indicates which interventions provide the greatest impact for a given cost. ways of advancing global welfare.4