Vaccines help save lives, but coverage still an important factor

Vaccines have been instrumental in increasing the lifespan of humans, but it turns out invention of these vaccines alone isn’t enough and coverage is more important than the vaccine itself as far as its effectiveness is concerned.

According to a new editorial by Emory Vaccine Center leaders in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) a vaccine, which could be the best vaccine in the world, is ineffective if it remains in the vial and doesn’t reach children or those who need it.

The editorial points out that while we have taken major step by developing vaccines for some of the most dangerous disease in the world, we are yet to walk the path that has been laid out by these vaccines for them to be effective.

One of the authors of the editorial points out that there is a need for health care providers and community leaders to work together to increase vaccine confidence and acceptance by stressing the important health and economic benefits of vaccination both for those vaccinated and for their communities.

Fears about vaccines and their side effects have been growing over recent years coupled with a lack of knowledge about the enormous health and economic benefits of vaccines, the authors say. Although multiple studies have found no support for vaccines as a cause of autism, and independent evaluation of the current immunization schedule has found it to be extremely safe, “translating the science into information capable of influencing vaccine skeptics has been difficult.”

The authors note several recent research studies on the benefits of vaccines: an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of nine diseases that have been reduced by more than 90 percent and many that have either been eliminated or been reduced by 99 percent or more due to vaccines; research showing that vaccination has resulted in net economic benefits of almost $69 billion in the United States alone; and an economic analysis that estimates an investment of $34 billion for 10 vaccines in 94 low- and middle-income countries would result in $586 billion in reducing costs of illness and $1.53 trillion in overall economic benefits.

Vaccines not only provide individual protection, but also community protection by reducing the spread of disease within a population, say the authors. This particularly benefits vulnerable populations who cannot be vaccinated, including those too young for recommended vaccines, those with an inadequate response to vaccines (sometimes the elderly), or those who are immune-compromised and cannot be vaccinated. And although the focus of vaccines has been on children, there is an ongoing need to enhance immunization rates in adults, as vaccine-preventable diseases in adults are a global health problem and vaccine coverage rates for adults are much lower than those in children.

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