It is estimated that immunization practices save two to three million lives each year. The development of vaccines and mass immunization practices have helped eradicate deadly diseases such as smallpox, while drastically reducing the number of people infected by influenza, hepatitis A and B, rubella, measles, chickenpox, polio, tetanus, mumps and other preventable illnesses. Vaccines also help prevent outbreaks and epidemics by increasing the number of people immune to various diseases within populations. Despite these benefits, global vaccine coverage is inadequate. Developing countries, in particular, often lack access to life-saving vaccines. Here are six facts about vaccines in developing countries.
6 Facts About Vaccines in Developing Countries
- An estimated one-quarter of all deaths in low-income countries are attributable to communicable diseases. More than 1.5 million people die annually from diseases that are preventable through vaccination. In 1990, 2.5 million children in developing countries under five died from vaccine-preventable diseases such as rotavirus, measles and pneumococcal disease. No deaths were attributable to these diseases in industrialized nations. Efforts to expand access to vaccines in developing countries reduced the child mortality rate to 750,000 in 2013. Despite this improvement, 19.7 million children under the age of one still lacked access to basic life-saving vaccines as of 2019.
- High manufacturing costs for vaccines hinder accessibility in many developing countries. Poverty-stricken nations often rely on vaccines to be imported from developed nations. Inefficient public health infrastructure and a lack of resources for transporting vaccines pose an obstacle to widespread immunization access.
- Developing countries continue to lack access to vaccines. Vaccine coverage has remained unchanged throughout the past few years in many developing countries, despite global advances in immunization knowledge and technology. Humanitarian crises caused by conflict and natural disasters threaten to perpetuate this stagnation in vaccine access.
- Several preventable diseases are making comebacks. In recent years, an increase in vaccine hesitancy among populations in developing countries has resulted in reductions in already poor immunization rates. The result has been outbreaks and resurgences of vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles, diphtheria and even polio.
- Vaccinations also have significant economic benefits. Expanding access to vaccines in developing countries is a strategic economic investment because the financial and human costs of death and disease outweigh the burden of implementing immunization programs. Between 2001 and 2020, the economic benefit of vaccinations in developing countries was nearly $2.3 trillion.
- The World Health Organization has proposed the Immunization Agenda 2030 to address vaccine access. This program plans to address the shortcomings and challenges of immunization globally, including the recent outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola and COVID-19. The Immunization Agenda 2030 envisions “a world where everyone, everywhere, at every age, fully benefits from vaccines to improve health and well-being.” Amidst the current COVID-19 global pandemic, its mission to improve access to life-saving vaccines in developing countries is more important than ever.
These six facts about vaccines in developing countries highlight the work that still needs to be done. Moving forward, it is essential that the World Health Organization and other humanitarian organizations make increasing access to vaccines a priority.
– Alana Castle