Vaccines Have Saved More Than 37 Million Children’s Lives Over The Past Decade: Report
Vaccinations for 10 major pathogens have saved more than 37 million children’s lives across 100 low- and middle-income countries, according to a new report published in The Lancet. Due to vaccines, children born in and after 2019 be 72% less likely to die early from pathogens.
The major pathogens whose threat has been reduced include the hepatitis B virus, Haemophilus influenzae type B, human papillomavirus (HPV), Japanese encephalitis, measles, Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A, Streptococcus pneumoniae, rotavirus, rubella, and yellow fever. The most significant impact of vaccines was among children under 5; the most life-saving vaccine was the measles vaccination.
Researchers also modeled future benefits of regular vaccinations, and estimate that vaccines will prevent 69 million child deaths by 2030 (starting from 2020). However, the effects on children’s lives of vaccines like Hepatitis B and HPV will only be apparent after 2030 and 2040 respectively.
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This news comes amid global unrest and hesitancy around Covid19 vaccines. Yet, vaccine hesitancy is not a new phenomenon. In the late 19th century, citizens protested the British government making the smallpox vaccine compulsory because that vaccine came with deadly side effects back then. More recently, the CIA’s plan to find Osama bin Laden involved a fake hepatitis B vaccination project that eroded public trust in global health programs. Historically, government vaccination drives has been met by a deep-seated public mistrust because vaccinations were forced upon or forcibly tested on marginalized and working-class communities.
At the same time, The Lancet study highlights how vaccines have existed and been perfected for decades — over 200 years — to ensure people’s health. This means side-effects for vaccines are rare and never as severe as the damage the disease vaccines protect against. There is overwhelming proof that vaccines can save lives and avoid children dying of preventable, debilitating infectious diseases. Though vaccine hesitancy in certain situations is a nuanced issue that requires reassurance from policymakers and independent health experts, abandoning vaccines altogether is a death sentence.
“There has been a much-needed investment in childhood vaccination programmes in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) and this has led to an increase in the number of children vaccinated. To inform future investment and ensure it continues we need to evaluate the impact of these programmes on public health. Our modelling has provided robust evidence on the effectiveness of vaccination programmes in LMICs and indicated what might be lost if current vaccination programmes are not sustained,” Dr Caroline Trotter, from the University of Cambridge UK, a co-author on the study, said in a statement.