For over 200 years, vaccines have protected humanity from diseases that threaten our wellbeing and existence. It’s because of vaccines that the world has been able to come together after COVID-19 lockdowns, and that we are able to rebuild and move forward.
From childhood vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccine to annual vaccines like the flu shot, as well as the shingles vaccine (recommended for those 50 years or older), vaccines make a long life possible.
That’s why this year’s theme for World Immunization Week 2022, a World Health Organization (WHO) global public health campaign is “Long Life for All.”
The history of vaccines dates all the way back to 1796, when a British doctor named Dr. Edward Jenner successfully used cowpox material to immunize against smallpox. After this method was further developed, smallpox was eventually eradicated worldwide in 1980. Since the first vaccine, incredibly scientific developments have been made, resulting in immunizations that protect against a wide array of infectious diseases.
“Vaccines have saved more lives globally than nearly any other public health intervention in history,” says Dr. Kyle Freese, PhD, MPH, who is STChealth’s Chief Epidemiologist and Chief Scientific Officer. “There are certainly disparities that happen due to inequitable vaccine distribution, but if you think of it in a larger concept, vaccines are by and large a cheap and accessible intervention that offers a lot of protection and is a preventative measure. Immunizations are the definition of primary prevention—you’re preventing suffering, morbidity and death.”
A recent article published by healthleadersmedia.com cited a study about U.S. COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The study followed the effects of coronavirus immunization in the U.S. from Dec. 12, 2020, to March 31, 2022. During that time period, 2,265,222 deaths were averted, 17,003,960 hospitalizations were averted, 66,159,093 infections were averted, and $899.4 billion in healthcare costs were averted—all thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine. That, my friends, is just one of the many examples of the power of vaccines.
“Immunizations have made the world a very different place now than it was not so long ago,” says Bob England, MD, MPH, Interim Executive Director at The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI). “The key to that change is not only the individual protection we each get from our own vaccines, but rather the protection provided by all the vaccinated people who surround us. There is no other aspect of health in which we are so dependent upon each other. To me, that makes herd immunity one of the most beautiful things in the world, because nothing I know demonstrates so clearly that we’re all in this life together.”
The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI) is a non-profit coalition in the state of Arizona with over 400 members. According to TAPI’s website, “Through the efforts of TAPI’s partners from both the public and private sectors, immunization coverage rates in Arizona have improved dramatically, with nearly three in four children fully immunized by age two. Unfortunately, the problem never ends. Each year in Arizona almost 90,000 babies are born, and none arrive immunized.” Visit TAPI’s website, linked here, to learn more.
For more information about World Immunization Week 2022, click here. If you’re unsure when to vaccinate yourself and your children, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Immunization Schedule.