News / Health

Vaccinations Save Millions of Lives Every Year

FILE - A woman gets a vaccination from a nurse in Mexico City, Jan. 27, 2014.
FILE - A woman gets a vaccination from a nurse in Mexico City, Jan. 27, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization says effective vaccines against killer diseases are averting between two to three million deaths every year.The agency is kicking off its yearly World Immunization Week campaign by urging children and adults to get immunized against deadly and debilitating diseases.

When the WHO began its Expanded Program on Immunization in 1974, only five percent of the world’s children were being immunized against killer diseases, such as diphtheria, measles, and pertussis.  Forty years later, more than 80 percent are receiving life-saving vaccinations.  

In addition, WHO noted an increasing number of people in all age groups are being immunized against preventable diseases.  WHO Director of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele said the impact of vaccines is comparable to that of providing safe water to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

“But importantly, we can do much better.  We can save an additional 1.2 million deaths every year if some of the newest vaccines, for instance against meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhea are used in the countries where these inevitable deaths still occur.   We could also prevent 250,000 deaths due to cervical cancer in the near future if the vaccines against human papillomavirus is extended to all girls today," explained Okwo-Bele.

Dr. Okwo-Bele said polio is on the verge of eradication.  He said measles in Africa has gone down dramatically and the disease is being eliminated in the Americas and in the Pacific region, including China.  He said the meningitis vaccine has been an outstanding success in saving lives in Africa.

According to the doctor, Angola and Congo Brazzaville are launching the introduction of roto-virus vaccines into their national health systems to coincide with World Immunization Week.

While these and other successes are gratifying, the World Health Organization said work must continue to reach the world’s children who are not being immunized with basic vaccines.  WHO Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals Technical Officer  Tracey Goodman told VOA there is a danger of people becoming complacent.  

“The unfortunate thing about complacency is that the number of susceptibles who resist or reject vaccination will accumulate and the disease will come back as you are seeing in the United States, measles and pertussis-whooping cough, which is a terrible disease,” she said. 

Goodman said vaccine-preventable diseases come back if a sufficient number of people in a community are not immunized.  She called this an avoidable tragedy.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs