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Global Vaccination Programs

When it comes to diseases, it is always preferred to prevent rather than treat. Over the years, vaccinations and immunizations have saved millions of lives and eliminated one of the deadliest diseases in the world: smallpox.

All children are born with an immune system that produces antibodies when a foreign substance, or antigen, is detected. In other words, when the child gets sick, these proteins will not be able to halt the disease from occurring, but the immune system will remember the antigen and give the child immunity when it invades the body a second time.

Vaccines contain those antigens, but in a weaker form. The body will sense an “invader” and still produce antibodies to fight the harmless antigen. Thus, without ever exposing a child to a disease, a vaccination is a safer way to gain protection and produce immunity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention understands the importance of global vaccination programs and has created the Global Immunization Division, which is dedicated to creating a “world without the diseases and deaths that could be prevented with vaccines.”

Worldwide, one in five children do not have access to the most basic vaccines. Consequently, around 1.5 million children die each year from diseases that could be prevented with proper immunizations. By working with a variety of global partners, the CDC has implemented a multitude of routine immunization services and campaigns, in addition to providing bed nets, de-worming medication and safe water systems.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also invests in global vaccination programs and contributes to the goals of the Decade of Vaccines, an action plan that aims to deliver universal access to immunization. In collaboration with the World Health Organization and other civil society organizations, the foundation is introducing vaccinations into the countries that need it most. They focus on strengthening immunizations systems by supporting the collection and analysis of vaccine-related data, as well as developing new technology to help medical staff “assess population immunity to disease.”

Universal access to vaccinations remains a priority goal for both groups in the next year. Effective vaccination programs saves lives, is inexpensive and easy to administer. Universal availability of vaccines also reduces health inequities, if everyone can have access to life-saving discoveries. Access to vaccines will give all our global citizens a fighting chance to survive.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: CDC, CDC 2, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations