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Beyond saving lives: four things you didn't know about vaccines

Every year, vaccinations save millions of lives. And, as the COVID 19 pandemic has made clear, vaccines don’t just prevent infectious disease, they allow us all to meet and work together safely. 

1) Vaccines are a great investment

Vaccinating children to reduce human suffering is by itself worthwhile. But vaccines are revolutionary – they don’t just change people, they change systems too.

Once children are immunised (after they’ve had a vaccine) they are more likely to reach adulthood and make their own contribution to society. With more people earning wages, a healthier population and fewer people needing treatment for illnesses they have vaccinated against, money is saved Every £1 spent on vaccine programmes returns £12 to the economy. 

Vaccines are a great investment. One small aid intervention has knock-on effects that makes future aid less necessary. One vaccination programme - smallpox - was so successful that it eradicated the disease. Now, most of us don't even need the vaccine. There's no reason why this couldn't happen with some other diseases too.

2) Progress since the 80s has been incredible..

Vaccination saves children’s lives – around 2-3 million every year. And millions more are protected from disease and disability. 

Since the 1980’s, humanity has made startling progress vaccinating against big childhood killers - with 85% of children now receiving basic vaccines.

The lines of the below graph represent an incredible human success story. Every upward slope represents millions of lives saved; children around the world, who have a shot at a better future.

Figure one - Global coverage by vaccine:

Graph displaying immunisation coverage by antigen from 1980 through to 2019.

Source: Unicef

3).. but progress has slowed down in recent years

The last few months have taught us what it’s like to live in the presence of a potentially fatal illness for which there is no cure. Many of us have been stressed and scared. I know I have. 

But many people have lived like this – without access to healthcare or vaccines - long before the coronavirus. Around the world, children are dying from diseases like measles or whooping cough. Diseases for which vaccines exist. 

Unfortunately progress on the Global Vaccine Action Plan – a global agreement to vaccinate more people – has stalled. Almost no headway has been made in the last decade (see below graph).

Vaccines are too important, and too beneficial, to be side-tracked. And with the global spotlight focused on the importance of vaccines, now is the time to act.   

Figure two - Un and under-vaccinated people by region:

Graph displaying number of un and undervaccinated by region, 1980-2019

Source: Unicef

4) We're working to get children around the world vaccinated

20 million children under one year old are missing out on basic immunisation. That’s almost one child in seven across the world. Most of those children live in just 10 countries

 - Afghanistan, Angola, DRC, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.

Even within those countries there are huge disparities. Whether or not a child gets vaccinated depends on their parents’ income, and whether they live close to major city. 

That’s why we work in remote areas around the world training healthcare workers to vaccinate the children most in need. And vitally, we campaign to make sure that money and systems are in place to make vaccines available for everyone who needs one.

We’re working hard to get the Global Vaccine Action Plan back on track - so that millions more children can stay safe, grow up healthy and change the future for good.

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