Children shouldn’t die from preventable diseases. Especially not from diseases which we have vaccines which we know can prevent children suffering from diseases such as polio and measles. Vaccines save lives and are one of the best buys in public health.
I would say that though, it’s my job to champion vaccines.
But when one in seven children still do not receive even the most basic vaccines and approximately 1.5 million children die every year from vaccine preventable diseases there’s more to be done to make sure everyone understands the true value of investing in vaccines.
Here are my top five facts for why I believe vaccines work and vaccines matter.
- Vaccines save 2-3 million lives every year. They have had a significant impact on driving down under five mortality rates, from 12.6 million children in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015.
- They also prevent millions more cases of diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhoea which are not always fatal, but can have a devastating impact on the health of a child, often causing long term harm including malnutrition and disabilities.
- For every $1 invested in vaccines, there is at least a $16 return in terms of healthcare costs, lost wages and lost productivity. This figures rises to $44 when the life-long impact of people living longer and healthier is taken into account.
- Routine immunisation is a key building block in a health system and investing in vaccines delivery can strengthen the whole health system, as well as driving a more equitable approach to the delivery of health services. Routine immunisation systems are focused on reaching every child and full immunisation of all WHO recommended vaccines requires multiple points of contact between a child and a health worker, forming the basis of regular contact with the health system. This allows other health concerns to be identified and treated, but also ensures that services reach every child and community – which is critical for those frequently left behind.
- Vaccines are crucial for global health security. In 1988 there were 350,000 cases of polio. In 2016, there were only 37. The polio vaccine has almost eliminated this paralysing disease from the world, and the virus is only endemic in three countries. Diseases don’t respect borders and a strong routine immunisation and health system can ensure a fast response and make the difference between a global epidemic and concentrated cases in one area. The polio surveillance network was the main reason there was only a handful of cases of Ebola in Nigeria, compared to thousands of cases in neighbouring countries.
For me, vaccines work and vaccines matter. And until every child receives all WHO recommended vaccines, we need to continue to invest and prioritise this crucial and essential health service.
It’s important to also recognise more children than ever before are being vaccinated against deadly disease and UK aid has contributed significantly to this progress – but with 16,000 children under five dying needlessly each day, much remains to be done.
Currently UK aid, through support to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is helping to immunise 76 million children, saving a life every two minutes. The UK and other donor’s commitments to life-saving vaccines must continue if we are to reach every child and ensure no-one is left behind.