Vaccines Save at Least 154 Million Lives in Fifty Years: WHO

Wed Apr 24 2024
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GENEVA: Global immunization efforts have saved at least 154 million lives in the past fifty years, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday, adding that most of those to benefit were infants.

That is the equivalent of 6 lives saved every minute of every year of the half-century, the UN health agency said.

In a study published in the Lancet, WHO gave a comprehensive analysis of the impact of fourteen vaccines used under the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary next month, according to AFP.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that vaccines are among the most powerful inventions in history, making once-feared diseases preventable.

He said that thanks to vaccines, smallpox has been eradicated, polio is on the brink, and with the more recent development of vaccines against diseases like cervical cancer and malaria, we are pushing back the frontiers of disease.

He added that with continued research, collaboration, and investment, we can save millions more lives today and in the next fifty years.

The study said infants accounted for 101 million of the lives saved through immunization over the 5 decades.

WHO said that immunization was the single greatest contribution of any health intervention to ensuring children not only see their first birthdays but continue leading healthy lives into adulthood.

Over fifty years, vaccines against fourteen diseases — diphtheria, Haemophilus influenza type B, measles, meningitis A, pertussis, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, invasive pneumococcal disease, rubella, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio, rotavirus, yellow fever — had directly contributed to reducing infant deaths by 40%, the study found.

For Africa, the reduction was more than 50%, it said.

Vaccines Against Measles

The vaccine against measles — a highly contagious illness by a virus that attacks mainly minors — had the most significant impact.

That jab accounted for 60% of the lives saved due to immunization, according to the study.

The polio vaccine means that more than twenty million people are able to walk today who would otherwise have been paralyzed.

The study also revealed that when a vaccine saves a child’s life, that person goes on to live an average of sixty-six years of full health on average — with a total of 10.2 billion full health years gained over the five decades.


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