The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists Vaccine Preventable Diseases through routine recommended immunizations, as number one of the 10 Public Health Achievements of the First Decade of 21st Century followed by Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease, Tobacco Control, Maternal and Infant Health, Motor Vehicle Safety, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Occupational Safety, and Cancer Prevention. This is arguably the single most cost-effective preventive health intervention preventing between 2-3 million deaths globally every year. These efforts have saved billions in both direct and indirect healthcare costs and continued investments will save even more. Ensuring that all children are vaccinated with the current recommended schedule could result in $20 billion in healthcare costs over the lifetime of those who are immunized. Economic analysis indicates that vaccinating each child born in the United States (US) in a given year with the recommended vaccine schedule could prevent up to 42,00 deaths and 20 million cases of disease.
Smallpox was declared as globally eradicated in 1980 and is not naturally occurring because of an aggressive vaccination companion in the 1960’s and through the late 1970’s. Polio is nearing full global eradication with some limitations due to lack of healthcare access in some war torn countries. Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988 and only 3 countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan) remain polio-endemic, which is down from more than 125 countries in 1988. The Global Vaccine Action Plan provides the framework to prevent millions of deaths by vaccine-preventable disease by 2020. The plan aims to strengthen routine immunization and to accelerate control of vaccine preventable disase with polio eradication the first milestone and the induction of new vaccines, and lastly to spur research and development for the next generation.
Several new vaccinations have been recently introduced; the most significant is the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine which prevented 211,000 infections and 13,000 deaths and the rotavirus vaccine which prevents between 40,000-60,000 hospitalizations each year. In addition to these achievements we have a record low number of reported cases of hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and chicken pox.
Here in the US, the Vaccine For Children (VFC) Program was first implemented in 1994 and was designed to ensure that eligible children do not contract vaccine-preventable diseases due to inability to pay. This was largely done in response to the measles resurgence in the United States that resulted in an increase of approximately 55,000 cases reported from 1989-1991 due to failure to vaccinate uninsured children between the ages of 12-15 months. The VFC program removed the financial and logistical barriers preventing the vaccination of low-income children and played a significant role in obtaining high vaccination coverage.
Expanding the types of healthcare providers that can offer vaccinations to include pharmacists has also helped to improve vaccinations rates and protect those at risk in our communities. The impact of these efforts were felt most during the mass vaccination companion during the most recent influenza pandemic with H1N1 in 2009.
Vaccine resources and educational tools are key to spreading the word about the benefits of proper immunization. The CDC, WHO, and Immunization Action Coalition are three of the most useful resources for vaccination information. This includes the most current Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) Vaccination Schedules (0-18 years, Adult based on Age or Indication, and Catch-up Schedule) which are published annually in January or February. Recommendations for seasonal influenza are also available through these resources. The Immunization Action Coalition also has Vaccination Information Statements (VIS) in a variety of languages to accommodate individuals who may not be native English speakers. Making sure that the correct vaccination information is getting out to the public is essential to keeping our vaccinations rates at a level that protects the public.
Improving and expanding access to immunization is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Vaccinations not only prevent suffering and death associated with infectious diseases such as pneumonia, dietheria, whooping cough, measles, and polio they enable national priorities such as education and economic development. We as healthcare providers must resist the claims that vaccines cause Autism, prove the anti-vaccine website to be false, and that these diseases are no longer a problem. Being a vaccination advocate is easy when you know the facts. Spread the word and celebrate this public health success.
Christina M. Madison, PharmD, BCACP, AAHIVP
Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice
http://www.who.int/campaigns/immunization-week/2017/en/ accessed April 19, 2017
https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p0519_publichealthachievements.html accessed April 19, 2017
https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/ensuringsafety/history/index.html accessed April 19, 2017