Vaccination saves 154 Million Lives Over the Last 50 Years

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Since its start, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) vaccination program has greatly improved global public health.

In 1974, WHO launched a program to make vaccines available to children worldwide. Now, 50 years later, a new study shows that this effort has saved millions of lives.

Initially, WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) aimed to vaccinate all children against seven diseases, including smallpox, which is now eradicated.

Over the years, the program has expanded to cover 14 diseases.

The Impact of Vaccination

The study used mathematical and statistical models to estimate three key impacts of vaccination from 1974 to 2024:

  • Number of deaths prevented
  • Number of life-years gained
  • Number of years of full health gained

According to the results, vaccination efforts over the past 50 years have saved an estimated 154 million lives.

On average, each life saved enjoyed an additional 66 years of full health.

Saving Young Lives

The program has had the greatest impact on young children.

The study found that 101 million of the 154 million deaths prevented were among children younger than one year old.

Vaccination is responsible for 40% of the decline in global infant mortality, making it the largest contributor to this reduction.

Measles Vaccine Leads the Way

All vaccines in the program have made a significant impact, but the measles vaccine has been the most effective.

Despite recent outbreaks, measles vaccination accounted for 60% of the total benefits of vaccination over the 50-year period, saving the most lives.

Dr. Andrew Shattock, who led the study, highlighted the importance of the measles vaccine in these achievements.

The Power of Vaccines

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the success of vaccines, noting that they have eradicated smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, and are now combating diseases like malaria and cervical cancer.

“Vaccines are among the most powerful inventions in history, making once-feared diseases preventable,” he said.

“With continued research, investment, and collaboration, we can save millions more lives today and in the next 50 years.”

Conclusion

The study emphasizes the incredible achievements of global vaccination efforts and calls for ongoing efforts to continue saving lives through vaccines.


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