important vaccines
In the last century, vaccines have been one of the most vital contributions to global health and prevented many infectious, widespread diseases. Unfortunately, more than one in ten children don’t receive basic, yet vitally important, vaccines, and over three million children die each year due to preventable infections.

This lack occurs primarily in countries suffering from poor economic conditions and limited healthcare options, but can also be affected by cultural resistance to vaccinations. In fact, just ten countries account for approximately 60 percent of under vaccinated children.

Since its founding in 1974, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expanded Programme of Immunization has played a leading role in the creation, licensing and distribution of vaccines to many communities across the globe. Among these are six important vaccines that work to change the world.


The modern medical field of vaccination was initiated in 1796 when Edward Jenner created the smallpox vaccine by placing a small portion of the active virus cowpox, a disease similar to smallpox causing only minor infection in humans, into the body of a patient in order to build up the immune system.

In 1967, WHO launched a program to eradicate the disease, which still claimed 2.9 million lives per year in the first half of the 20th century. By 1980, though, WHO announced the complete eradication of smallpox.


Developed in the 1950s, the first polio vaccine brought an important change in vaccine science — by using an inactive form of poliovirus (IPV), which carried a lower risk of vaccine-induced infection. An oral polio vaccine (OPV), a weakened poliovirus, was later developed.

Today, three doses of IPV is 99-100 percent effective, virtually eliminating the spread of the disease in places where it is available. Polio has been successfully eradicated throughout much of the world due to these important vaccines.


The measles vaccine, one of the most important vaccines of the 21st century, was first readily available in the U.S. in the 1970s. It became mandatory for school-aged children, which resulted in few measles cases overall. Increased worldwide availability between 2000 and 2015 brought a nearly 80 percent decrease in measles cases resulting in death.

However, 18 countries in Europe, as well as many African countries, have continued to suffer from this disease with over 14,000 cases occurring between 2016 and 2017. The vaccine was recently made mandatory in France, Italy and Germany — children without proof of up-to-date vaccinations, including measles, cannot be admitted to nurseries and schools.


The influenza vaccine, which differs from other vaccines as it is made to target the predicted strain of the virus each year, has become a yearly staple in many Americans’ lives. In fact, this important vaccine changed the outcome of potential influenza epidemics due to its low herd immunity threshold — the percent of people in a population needing vaccinations in order to maintain the health of the entire population — of just 33 to 44 percent.

While the influenza vaccine is cheap and widely distributed across the U.S., developing countries often have limited access to the vaccinations. WHO’s Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines is focused on reducing the influenza virus worldwide by increasing seasonal vaccine usage and furthering research and development.

In recent years, two important vaccines have been developed for tropical diseases in Africa and parts of southern Asia. While work has continued on both vaccines for decades, usable and distributable products have only been available within the past two years.


The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that there were nearly 720,000 deaths caused by malaria in 2016 alone, the majority occurring in African countries; seventy-two percent of these deaths were children under the age of five. While the infectious agent — infected mosquitoes — has been known and studied since the late 19th century, a safe and effective malaria vaccine has only recently been tested and will be implemented in 2018.

The malaria vaccine, RTS,S, will be available in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi through the partnership of WHO, the Ministry of Health of Kenya and a collaboration between PATH, a nonprofit organization focused on global health innovation, and GSK, a research-based pharmaceutical company.

The vaccine will help protect children from malaria at least three years after the initial vaccination, working in tandem with other established prevention tools such as bednets and insecticides. These efforts will work to reduce the spread of this deadly disease.


First discovered in 1976, the ebola virus has a fatality rate averaging nearly 50 percent. The severe 2014-2016 outbreak in west Africa accelerated the search for an effective vaccine. The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine uses an inactivated form of this dangerous virus and protects against one of five species of the ebola virus — zaire, which accounted for all ebola outbreaks since 2012.

Trial and distribution of this vaccine was led by WHO, Guinea’s Ministry of Health, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Medecins sans Frontieres. Trials starting in 2015 were performed as a ‘ring vaccination,’ in which only those with increased probability of contact with the disease are vaccinated, thus assisting in herd immunity even if not all members of the population are immunized.

Vaccines have furthered the goal of creating a healthier world for all. Increasing their effective distribution in developing countries, which continue to have limited access to the healthcare and preventative medicines, has the potential to reduce the suffering of those in poverty and rural areas.

Through these six vaccines, one can see the possibility of a future without devastation by disease for children and adults alike, regardless of one’s economic status or geographical location. Now, time will tell which vaccine will be developed next.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

Vaccination can Combat Poverty
Vaccination has perpetually been a vital aspect of the fight against poverty. Global health is one of the most imperative causes and immunization is the foundation for global health. Consequently, organizations like GAVI, WHO, MSF and UNICEF have put in their combined efforts into promoting this cause. Their endeavors have also highlighted how vaccination can combat poverty.

The efficient provision of vaccination and immunization schemes has been augmented by the exponential progress that the medical field has experienced over the past few years.

An estimated 2-3 million children, 1.5 million of which are under the age of five, die every year due to diseases that could have been averted by more readily available vaccines.

There are numerous underlying reasons for why vaccination can combat poverty. These mainly revolve around lowering infant mortality rates, dedicating more medical facilities and improving health care services.

Moreover, the rapid yellow fever outbreak that has plagued Angola, along with neighboring Kinhasas and Kwango, is being closely monitored by MSF. As yellow fever can lead to death for 15-50 percent of associated cases, Congolese people in the region are especially threatened.

Fortunately, the entire city of Matadi was successfully vaccinated. This move has culminated in the establishment of more vector-control activities for the people. This will especially be efficacious in improving awareness on household protection.

The inaccessibility of the pneumococcal vaccine has endangered the lives of countless children in developing countries. This malady affects millions of children all over the world.

Despite Pfizer’s advancement in this aspect, MSF has tried to rebuff its patent application as it sees it as a form of monopolistic competition because it restricts the development of the vaccine by other entities.

Furthermore, higher prices for the vaccine will be detrimental as it would not be affordable for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Therefore, it is imperative that vaccines of this nature be both affordable and easily accessible.

Vaccination has also played a pivotal role in the U.N. health agency’s emergency response in Nigeria. The polio vaccination programs have been an integral aspect.

Similarly, the Gombe state government of Nigeria approved the polio immunization of 900,000 individuals who have traveled from disputed areas under the control of the Boko Haram militant group. Vaccination can combat poverty by this method as it is a precautionary regulation that can alleviate the pressures of mass influx.

In addition to this, the steady progression that has been made with regards to Zika vaccine trials has accentuated the sense of urgency that is needed to address this crucial issue.

Consequently, the recently proposed approval for the performance of Zika clinical trials on humans will pave the way for a breakthrough that could help thousands of communities in the Americas. The upcoming launch of the leprosy vaccine in India also echoes this resonance of hope.

The GAVI Alliance has invested an exorbitant amount of $800 million for bolstering health care sectors in developing countries. Such maneuvers will hopefully result in stimulating the interests of private and public sectors in the country towards the cause.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

child immunizationDuring immunization week at the end of April, UNICEF highlighted the need to focus on child immunization in conflict-stricken areas, as it is estimated that two-thirds of unvaccinated youth reside in dangerous regions.

The World Health Organization reports that “an estimated 18.7 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines.” Access to child immunization can be an indicator that factors into the quality of life in a nation. The absence of these important, basic health needs is mostly caused by the lack of availability of hospitals and medical supplies.

According to UNICEF, South Sudan has the highest percentage of unimmunized children “with 61 percent not receiving the most basic childhood vaccines.” Somalia and Syria follow closely behind at 58 percent and 57 percent respectively.

Regions that are dominated by some kind of conflict have proven to be vulnerable to outbreaks of disease. In peaceful areas, only 1 percent of the cases of measles involving children end in death.

Overcrowding and malnutrition caused by instability can increase the death rate per case to as high as 30 percent according to UNICEF. The intensified vulnerability has forced organizations to focus on the health services in these areas.

In addition, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, are still struggling with the permanence of the poliovirus. In 2014, “86 percent of infants around the world received 3 doses of polio vaccine” a common treatment in nations with general health services. Restoring medical capacity to provide the polio vaccine is just one way to further the fight for immunization coverage.

In a broadcast hosted by UNICEF during World Immunization Week, Chief of Immunization Robin Nandy commented on the harmful environment in these countries saying, “Children miss out on basic immunizations because of the breakdown – and sometimes deliberate destruction – of vital health services.”

Nandy’s team has declared the goal of expanding child immunization coverage to 90 percent for every nation by 2020.

UNICEF’s campaign to support global immunization goes hand in hand with the Global Vaccine Action Plan developed by the World Health Organization. The declaration set a goal of “reaching 90 percent of children under the age of one nationwide with routine immunization, and at least 80 percent of coverage for every country district by the year 2020.”

UNICEF aims to reach the most individuals through supporting the government “who hold primary responsibility for vaccination programmes.” By targeting the nation’s ability to distribute the vaccine, the organization can support a medical infrastructure that can become self-efficient. Expanding cover this way can help save 2-3 million lives a year with 100 million infants getting vaccinated.

The Vaccine Alliance, a global organization with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Center for Disease Control, and many others, brings hope to the campaign for the expansion of immunization. Its work has helped “bring new vaccines to approximately 440 million children in over 70 countries and to avert over six million child deaths since 2000.”

Jacob Hess

Photo: Flickr

With the outbreak of conflict in Yemen, health centers have to shut down. Forces continue to attack hospitals and health care centers. There are medical shortages as the conflict hinders the delivery of medical supplies. As a result, children cannot receive the crucial vaccines and treatments they need to fight communicable diseases.

Vaccines save 2.5 million children worldwide from preventable diseases. Without basic vaccines, about 1.5 million children die. There are already cases of Measles reported in Yemen. Doctors are worried about reports of other diseases like Polio. If children in Yemen continue to not receive the vaccines, then these two diseases could continue to spread.

Parents are hesitant to take their children to health care centers to get the vaccines because the centers continue to be targets for attack, and because just getting there is dangerous. That leaves the health workers going into the field to vaccinate children. This can make it difficult to properly track how much of the child population has been vaccinated.

Another often overlooked aspect of vaccinating children is the protection of the vaccines themselves. Doctors have to make sure that vaccine centers maintain a supply of the vaccines needed. However, the conflict can make it difficult for WHO officials to deliver the medical supplies to the vaccine centers. Fuel shortages also cause problems, as there needs to be enough to ensure that the vaccines have the proper cold chain needed.

Issues like this can limit the number of children that can be reached and vaccinated. If supplies cannot be replenished or maintained, then it becomes difficult to keep children safe from diseases.

Contributing to the issue is food insecurity. Before the civil war, Yemen was already importing most of its food. Now, with conflict preventing food from being delivered, Yemen is struggling to feed its people. Without the nutrients to stay healthy and prevent malnutrition, the children’s immune systems are at a higher risk for contracting diseases.

Diseases could spread rapidly, as children in Yemen do not have access to enough food and clean water, people live in close proximity in refuge areas, and there is limited health access. The WHO workers try to combat the spread with consistent monitoring of medical supplies and going out and finding those who need the vaccines.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UN News Centre, World Health Organization,
Photo: Twitter

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