WHO: Global immunization saved 154M lives over past 50 years

WHO: Global immunization saved 154M lives over past 50 years
Photo credit: Kaiznform

Vaccines are among the most powerful inventions, making once-feared diseases preventable, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief said Wednesday, adding that global immunizations have saved at least 154 million lives over the past 50 years, Anadolu reported.

Speaking at a WHO press conference in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the statistic is the equivalent of 6 lives saved every minute over a half-century, especially the lives of infants.

He cited a major study by The Lancet in which 14 vaccines were analyzed.

"Vaccines are among the most powerful inventions in history, making once-feared diseases preventable," said Tedros.

"Thanks to vaccines, smallpox has been eradicated, polio is on the brink, and with the more recent development of vaccines against diseases like malaria and cervical cancer, we are pushing back the frontiers of disease."

Tedros said that with continued research, investment, and collaboration, the world could save millions more lives today and in the next 50 years.

The study, led by the WHO, shows that immunization is the single most significant contribution of any health intervention to ensuring babies see their first birthdays and continue leading healthy lives into adulthood.

Of the vaccines included in the study, the measles vaccination had the greatest impact on reducing infant mortality, accounting for 60% of the lives saved due to immunization.

The WHO chief said the measles vaccine will likely remain the top contributor to preventing deaths in the future.

Vaccination against 14 diseases

Over the past 50 years, vaccination against 14 diseases has directly contributed to reducing infant deaths by 40% globally, and by more than 50% in the African Region.

As a result of vaccination against polio, more than 20 million people can walk today who would otherwise have been paralyzed, and the world is on the verge of eradicating polio, once and for all.

The study says the gains in childhood survival highlight the importance of protecting immunization progress in every country of the world and accelerating efforts to reach the 67 million children who missed out on one or more vaccines during the pandemic years.

The study was released ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) to take place in May 2024.

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