Vaccination is the administration of a vaccine to help the immune system develop a means to protect the body from disease. Vaccines contain a weakened microorganism or virus or proteins or toxins from an organism that helps a person build a tolerance to the disease but is not strong enough to infect the person. Vaccines have helped billions of people avoid contracting diseases such as the flu, pneumonia, measles, chickenpox, and more.
It is not only important for an individual to get vaccinated, but for everyone in a community to get vaccinated. While vaccines are effective in preventing diseases, herd immunity is most effective in preventing even highly infectious like measles from spreading within a community. During an outbreak, people who have been vaccinated are still at risk of becoming sick; herd immunity prevents this. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and measles prevent 2 to 3 million deaths around the world every year.
The world is much further ahead in the fight against infectious diseases than many people think. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 85.8% of the world’s one-year-olds are vaccinated. Additionally, about 80% of infants living in the world’s 73 poorest countries still receive routine immunizations. This is measured by how many children have been given a full course of immunizations for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DTP3).
Vaccination rates, however, are not consistent from country to country and there are substantial differences in vaccination coverage within countries. Some countries have rates of 95% or higher, while some fall below 60%. Additionally, the WHO reports that children in the richest 20% of urban households are more likely to receive their vaccines than children from the poorest 20% of households. There are only 5 countries with vaccination rates of less than 60%. They are Equatorial Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Chad, and Samoa. Eighty-three countries are under the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) target of 90% or greater vaccination coverage. On the other hand, 112 countries have sustained at least 90% coverage of DTP3.
The differences in vaccination rates between countries and within countries are affected by several factors. People may not get vaccinated or vaccinate their children because of lack of accessibility to or the cost of vaccines, but also because some believe that vaccines are not effective or not safe. Liberia is the most skeptical country, with 28% of people disagreeing that vaccines are effective. Vaccination rates will continue to grow around the world. At the beginning of 2018, France adopted a new policy that requires all children to receive 11 mandatory vaccines. In the United States and Australia, children must have up-to-date immunizations to attend child-care centers and preschool facilities. Governments will continue to encourage vaccination.
Even with recent outbreaks in regions of the United States and the world, the success of vaccinations has been higher than many other health behaviors. The World Health Organization’s full immunization coverage rate estimates can be found here.