Vaccines bring us closer
Today, we’re more aware than ever before of the power of vaccines. They can help protect us from potentially deadly diseases, improve the overall health of groups and communities, and allow us to come together in person without fear of serious illness.
And while vaccines were not top-of-mind for most people before the pandemic, the practice of immunisation has, for a very long time, been changing the world.
Smallpox was stamped out in 1980, and estimates suggest that – even allowing for medical advances since then – smallpox immunisation has helped to save between 150 and 200 million people. Wild poliovirus cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, thanks to a global eradication initiative, sparing countless children from the life-limiting effects of polio. And, between 2010 and 2018, the measles vaccine has saved 23 million lives.
These are just a few examples, and today immunisation continues to protect us from over 20 deadly diseases. There are now vaccines to help combat malaria, dengue and Ebola (Zaire ebolavirus), with others for tuberculosis and respiratory syncytial virus in the pipeline., With exciting research and new technologies, I’m confident more will follow, too.
But immunising global populations is not an easy feat. Myths and misinformation mean many choose not to get vaccinated. And sadly, many others don’t get to make a choice at all. In some places, millions of children are missing routine but essential vaccines like measles and diphtheria, tetanus toxoid and pertussis (DTP3) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protecting a global population from infectious disease requires many control measures, in addition to vaccination. As we know, immunisation programmes alongside preventative measures such as washing hands, wearing face masks and social distancing, can all work together to slow down the spread of a pandemic.
That’s why we need industry, governments, and health bodies to continue working together, with an ongoing focus on a range of preventative measures, while improving trust in and ensuring broad access to vaccines.
We can draw so much from both recent learnings and from the successes of the past. We can have hope, even confidence, that vaccines will continue to offer protection from disease. And, in so doing, that vaccines will promote healthier lives for all and preserve that simple, vital human experience of just being together, face to face, in the real world.
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