Global immunization programs drastically reduce death and suffering from diseases, including rotavirus, whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, polio, measles, rubella, pneumococcal disease, and Japanese encephalitis, as well as Hib and other types of meningitis.
Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective and successful public health solutions available. Each year, they save the lives of approximately 2.5 million children. For every $1 invested in immunization, there is a $16 return over the lifespan of the immunized child, which includes saved treatment costs and averted productivity losses. By taking into account the even broader benefits of people living longer, healthier lives, the return on that same $1 investment rises to $44 per person.
Because of strong U.S. support, a single vaccine protecting against three prevalent diseases — diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, which also serve as general indicators of how well countries provide routine immunization services — grew in global coverage from 20% in 1980 to 86% by the end of 2016. However, 19.9 million infants did not receive the benefits of full immunization in 2017, which is estimated to result in death from preventable disease for an estimated 1.5 million children annually.
U.S. support has been essential for fast-tracking Ebola and Zika vaccine research efforts, as well as leading progress toward vaccines to protect against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases. An experimental vaccine was deployed during the 2018 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), providing a key tool for responders to control the epidemic’s spread. During the DRC’s ninth outbreak, in part because of this vaccine, cases of the disease were halted at 54, with only 33 deaths.
Global vaccine programs improve health security by eliminating infectious diseases in low-income countries and reducing the risk of importation, helping protect Americans at home and abroad. Immunization systems also help communities respond to emergency outbreaks, providing trained health workers, health surveillance strategies, and related infrastructure to combat emerging diseases.