Vaccines are a success story – the medical profession should be proud of their impact

Vaccines contribute to long healthy lives around the world, and have help eradicate numerous diseases, by Editorial Staff

A lot of people would die every year if not for the advent of vaccines. It’s estimated that they prevent between two and three million deaths every year worldwide.

This includes a lot of vulnerable people, notably children. In the 18 years between 2000 and 2018, deaths from measles in kids plummeted by an incredible 73 per cent. The number of lives saved? An astounding 23.2 million. Pretty good, for a little jab in the arm.

But it’s not just the damaging impact of measles that has been diminished by vaccinations. Polio, a horrific disease that primarily impacts children who are very young, can cause irreversible paralysis. Of those who do become paralysed, somewhere between five and 10 per cent die .

Now, thanks to advances in immunisation, the world is far nearer to eradicating polio. Meanwhile, nearly every country in the world has ridden itself of tetanus. As of 2015, the illness now kills 96 per cent less babies than it did in 1988. An Ebola vaccine and a vaccine against HPV have also gleaned fantastic results.

Improving quality of life for patients
But vaccines don’t just save lives – they improve a patient’s quality of life. Immunisation against shingles, for example. Is known to improve the quality of life for older people at risk of developing this disease.

Shingles is very unpleasant for elderly people. It causes a painful, blistering rash typically in one part of the body which may be followed by severe long-lasting pain in the area where the rash was.

Chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus, which stays dormant in the body. As a person begins to age, their chance of developing shingles begins to increase. This increased risk, it is believed, is associated with a decline in immunity.

In the EU, almost nine in ten young adults have the varicella-zoster virus in their body. Therefore, most adults 50 years and older are at risk of developing shingles. About five to 30 per cent of people who get the disease will experience severe long-lasting pain.

The EMA has recently recommended a marketing authorisation for two vaccines aiming at preventing this debilitating disease. The shot is 90 per cent effective for children and 75 per cent for adults. GPs can sell them to their patients privately.

The fight Against Covid
Of course, no conversation about vaccines is complete without mentioning the vaccines against Covid-19. In the EU, there are currently five available.

A recent study from the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) estimated that, as of the end of 2021, 470,000 lives have been saved among those aged 60 years and over since the start of the vaccine rollout across Europe.

As the world continues to readjust following the declaration of the pandemic in March 2020, vaccines will continue to play a significant role in both saving lives and ensuring that patients who do contract Covid enjoy a higher quality of life.

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