World Immunization Week
April 26, 2017
April 24-30 is World Immunization Week, a moment to highlight how vaccines can protect against life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases. It’s widely recognized that immunizations not only save millions of lives, but vaccines are also one of the world’s most cost effective and best public health interventions.
Vaccines against deadly diseases save 2 to 3 million lives each year. Death and disability from once common infections such as measles, rubella, and polio are now rare in most parts of the world, and preventing infections caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B not only saves lives, but also saves millions of dollars related to cancer and chronic diseases.
Despite the achievements of global immunization programs worldwide, millions globally do not have access to life-saving immunizations. Unfortunately, there are still 19.4 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world.
An increase in the use of existing vaccines in 72 of the world’s poorest countries over the next decade could save $6.2 billion in treatment costs. If all the children around the world were immunized with current vaccines, by 2020 we would save nearly 25 million lives.
CDC works with partners throughout the world to provide scientific expertise, implement and evaluate prevention strategies and practices, provide quality laboratory systems, and strengthen the public health workforce in order to protect Americans at home and globally from vaccine-preventable diseases such as rubella. Moreover, other epidemic-prone vaccine-preventable diseases, including cholera, diphtheria, influenza, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever continue to be significant public health threats throughout the world.
With the increasing frequency of international travel, and a rapidly expanding world population, it is more important than ever to stop disease threats before they reach American borders. By preventing vaccine-preventable diseases globally, CDC is protecting Americans from these diseases coming into the United States from other countries. Americans at home and the millions working and traveling abroad, including those serving in the military, remain vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases as long as these diseases exist elsewhere in the world.
We have made great achievements with polio eradication. The number of wild poliovirus cases reached an historic low with a total of only 37 cases in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the three remaining polio endemic countries in 2016. This is a 99 percent reduction of this crippling disease from 1988, when there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries. Science and innovations, collaborations and critical partnerships, and the hard work and commitment of the frontline vaccinators have resulted in the fewest cases of polio in the fewest places in history.
In 2016, the world also took a leap forward when the World Health Organization declared measles eliminated from the Americas. This is the first time measles has been eliminated in an entire region, though the virus had been eliminated in several individual countries before, including the United States. Despite these gains, measles is highly infectious and remains one of the leading killers of children worldwide with 400 deaths each day. That’s 16 children every hour who die from a disease for which a safe, effective vaccine has existed for 50 years.
Building on our accomplishments, CDC and partners remain committed to working with countries around the world to reach goals for disease eradication, elimination and control of polio, measles, rubella, and other serious vaccine-preventable diseases. In addition, CDC is supporting development and introduction of new vaccines to protect against leading causes of morbidity and mortality including malaria and dengue, and emerging infectious disease threats such as those from the Ebola and Zika viruses.
Through our partnerships we will continue to prevent unnecessary death and illness around the world due to life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases, while protecting Americans here and abroad from diseases that know no borders.
Rebecca Martin, PhD
Director, Center for Global Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
/William W. Schluter/
William W. Schluter, MD, MPH
Director, Division of Global Immunization
Center for Global Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention