Updated on 31 May 2016
Living in a time of unprecedented medical interventions, it is difficult to fully appreciate the contribution vaccines have made to human health. In fact, the widespread adoption of vaccines was one of the greatest public health innovations of the 20th century. Deadly and highly-infectious diseases like small pox, whooping cough, polio and measles have either been eradicated completely or are under control thanks to the development and administration of vaccines.
Breakthroughs in the development of new vaccines have made 2015 a remarkable year in vaccine history. Dengvaxia, the world's first vaccine against dengue, has been approved for use in Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico and the Philippines. The vaccine's regulatory file has been submitted to more than 20 countries across the globe with a focus on those countries where the disease is endemic.
The research and development of this groundbreaking vaccine have been 20 years in the making. The vaccine has proven effective at protecting two-thirds of individuals (66%) aged nine years and older against dengue. It provides even greater protection against severe dengue (93%) and can prevent 80% of hospitalizations due to dengue, which account for the lion's share of the economic burden in dengue-endemic countries.
Vaccines are vital in preventing infectious diseases
Vaccines played a key role in the 20th century in protecting people from communicable diseases and preventing major epidemics. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine and the polio vaccine, to name just two, highlight how successful vaccines can be when they are implemented as part of a holistic approach to disease eradication.
Hepatitis B is one of the world's most common and serious infectious diseases and the hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes more than one million deaths every year. Successful hepatitis B vaccination strategies in 177 countries have led to a dramatic decrease in HBV transmission. Randomized controlled trials of the hepatitis B vaccine administered at birth found that immunized infants born to mothers infected with hepatitis B were 3.5 times less likely to become infected with the virus. The health community expects that, thanks to universal vaccine programs, a reduction in the incidence and prevalence of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma will be achieved in the coming decades.