Why Vaccines Matter

April 27, 2021

By Anderson Alleyne, Communications Consultant, Global Health Council

(Photo Credit: Veronique De Viguerie, Verbatim for JSI)

World Immunization Week (April 24-30) is an opportunity to raise awareness of vaccinations and the crucial role they play in maintaining a healthy world. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted life-saving vaccine campaigns. As mentioned in our 2021 Global Health Briefing Book, more than half of the 129 countries where data were available reported moderate to total disruption of immunization services. As a result, there is a growing risk of resurgence of vaccine-preventable infections including measles, polio, and tuberculosis. With all eyes on vaccines, this year’s campaign offers an opportunity to build long-term support for immunization and improve vaccine investments. Here we briefly explain the importance of vaccines and why it’s one of the best ways to protect yourself and future generations from infectious diseases.

1. Vaccines save lives.
Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective ways to protect people from life-threatening and preventable diseases. According to the World Health Organization, immunization prevents approximately 2-3 million deaths each year from over 20 deadly diseases such as influenza, tetanus, and rubella. Since 1988, the global incidence rate of polio has decreased by 99.9% and an estimated 16 million people today are walking who may have otherwise been paralyzed by the disease because of polio vaccines. Additionally, during 2000–2018, the measles vaccine prevented an estimated 23.2 million deaths, which demonstrates how valuable vaccines are in saving lives and preventing illness. 

2. Vaccines provide a high ROI.
Immunization programs yield a high return on investment (ROI) in terms of the avoided economic costs of disease, treatment, and care. For every $1 invested in vaccines, there is a $21 return over the lifespan of an immunized child. Moreover, according to Johns Hopkins University, the costs averted by implementing these vaccination programs amounted to $681.9 billion between 2011-20 and $828.5 billion for the next decade. 

3. Vaccines strengthen global health security.
Though immunization has greatly reduced the burden of infectious diseases globally, 1 in 5 children still doesn’t have access to lifesaving vaccines. Diseases do not respect borders and in today’s interconnected world, an outbreak anywhere is a health threat everywhere. For this reason, immunization programs underpin global health security for their ability to prevent and control infectious disease outbreaks around the world. 

4. Vaccines are the key to eradicating diseases.
To date, smallpox is the only vaccine-preventable disease that has been eradicated. However, infectious disease outbreaks that once killed or disabled millions have been dramatically reduced due to investments in the research and development of vaccines. With continued worldwide commitment, it is possible to eradicate other infectious diseases in the near future.