It is a disturbing fact that in these modern times, with all of our technological advances and development, that each year millions of people still die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Even more troubling to think that around half of these deaths are in children under the age of five.
Vaccine research differs from other areas because it is preventive in nature. We have all had a headache which required us to take medication; however, what if we could take one pill that could have prevented another headache from ever starting, or at least lowered the rate of its occurrence? Who would not opt for this solution? Obviously, this is an over simplified analogy; however, why should people have to wait until they develop symptoms, complications and possibly death when they could prevent this all from occurring in the first place?
When we think of vaccines, most people tend to think of seasonal flu shots or routine pediatric shots, but yet there is so much more to the vaccine world than just these types of vaccines. For example, researchers are aiming at preventing nosocomial infections (acquired during stays in hospital or other healthcare facilities). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated in 2011 that there are 453,000 cases of Clostridium difficile (C difficile) infections in the US annually, with over 29,000 disease related deaths. According to Dr. Michael Bell, a deputy director at the CDC “one in nine patients over 65 with C difficile dies within 30 days of diagnosis. “
Most of us know of at least one family whose life has been tragically effected by a disease that could have most likely been prevented. There is ample evidence to support the claim that vaccines have a significant influence on lowering the incidence rate of some common diseases: Indeed, in cases where countries have tried to reduce their vaccination programs because of public fear over the safety of vaccines, it has led to a dramatic increase in disease.
Taking measles as an example: According to the World Health Authority (WHO), measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children. In 2015 alone there were 134,200 measles related deaths reported globally. That’s around 15 deaths every hour! However, it is estimated that between the years 2000 and 2015 measles vaccination prevented around 20 million deaths and global deaths from the virus decreased by 79% in the same period. Measles has been eliminated from the US since 2000. Which means it is not circulating; however, people can and are still being infected by others arriving from outside of the US. More than 95% of measles related deaths occurring in poor countries with poor health systems.
Companies are constantly looking to improve on existing vaccines to make them more effective and easier to produce, as well as to develop new vaccines for prevention of diseases that for right now can only be treated once symptoms are detected. As a vaccine professional, I am proud to say that my colleagues and I do make a difference and I encourage everyone to do their part in helping to control vaccine-preventable diseases.