Vaccines have saved 37 million children’s lives since 2000

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Since the early 2000s, vaccines developed to fight ten major diseases have prevented the deaths of 37 million children in nearly 100 low- and middle-income countries, according to new modeling. By 2030, this estimate could double.

Immunization programs targeting primarily children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have mushroomed over the past two decades. But how many lives have they saved? As part of a recent study, sixteen independent research groups attempted to quantify the impact of these programs by modeling ten pathogens in 98 PRFI.

The pathogens targeted were: hepatitis B virus, Haemophilus influenzae type B, human papillomavirus, Japanese encephalitis, measles, Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A, Streptococcus pneumoniae, rotavirus, rubella and yellow fever.

Tens of millions of lives saved

Results: since 2000, vaccinations for these ten major diseases would have prevented the death of 37 million people evolving in the countries concerned. It also emerges from this work that children born in 2019 (still in the 98 LMICs studied) who are not vaccinated will be 45% more likely to die before the age of five.

Even in adulthood, the difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated is still marked. Children born in 2019 in these countries will indeed experience a 72% lower mortality during their lifetime if they are vaccinated against the ten diseases modeled.

Finally, over the lifespan of people born between 2000 and 2030, the results show that 120 million deaths will be avoided thanks to vaccination. Of this sample, 96 million lives will be saved by vaccines against measles and hepatitis B.

Vaccines have saved more than 37 million children’s lives since 2000. Credits: Flickr / Pan American Health Organization PAHO

“Our study demonstrates the enormous public health benefits that can be achieved through immunization programs in low- and middle-income countries”, concludes epidemiologist Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London. “By projecting through to 2030 in these 98 countries, we have provided information on where investments in immunization coverage should be directed to achieve further gains.”.

Of course, this new model has some limitations as we lack empirical data on the burden of disease and death in a majority of these countries. That said, this is a serious estimate and the largest study on the subject to date.

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