Why CDC is Commited to Global Immunization

Fijian Child receives measles vaccine

Fijian Child receives measles vaccine.

Infectious disease knows no boundaries, especially in today’s increasingly mobile world. When diseases—including vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs)—break out anywhere in the world, their spread to the United States is only a plane flight away. For example, in 2011, there were 220 reported cases of measles in the United States. 200 of the 220 cases were brought into the United States from other countries with measles outbreaks.

CDC’s Global Immunization Division (GID) is involved in one of the most effective of all global public health missions—vaccination against deadly diseases. GID works closely with a wide variety of partners in more than 60 countries to vaccinate children against contagious and potentially serious VPDs. These efforts reduce the likelihood of VPDs spreading to other countries. Ultimately, they protect Americans from sickness and death caused by VPDs that are brought into the United States.

The U.S. Congress has provided critical funding to CDC for global vaccination programs since 1991, including specific appropriations for polio eradication, measles mortality reduction, and strengthening routine immunizations. The efforts of CDC, other U.S. agencies, national governments, and multiple partners have led to major progress in addressing global immunization goals and reducing deaths due to VPDs. Polio cases have dropped by 99% since 1988, measles deaths declined from an estimated 535,000 in 2000 to 139,000 in 2010, and more than 2.5 million VPD deaths are prevented each year through routine immunization.

However, much more needs to be done, and even greater improvements in global health are possible. Global polio eradication remains a top priority for CDC and would represent a crowning public health achievement for the entire world. The number of worldwide polio cases has fallen from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 1300 in 2010—a decline of more than 99% in reported cases. On December 2, 2011, CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, activated CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to strengthen the agency’s partnership engagement through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)external icon, which is committed to completing the eradication of polio. In 2012, the world is experiencing the lowest number of polio cases since polio control efforts were introduced.

Recent analyses have confirmed the feasibility of global measles eradication, although no date has been set, and multiple challenges remain before this goal can be attained. Bolstering routine immunization and increasing the use of new vaccines to protect against pneumonia, diarrhea, and meningitis could prevent an additional 2 million child deaths annually.

Immunization is a global health priority for CDC. Vaccines save lives, prevent disease, and are cost-effective and much cheaper than hospitalizations. It has demonstrated large-scale impact on health, with effective strategies and clear targets that lead to dramatic improvements in health. Working closely with public health partners, continued significant progress can be made to reduce health disparities and ensure everyone has access to life-saving vaccines.

Page last reviewed: December 14, 2011
Content source: Global Immunization