Vaccination is without doubt the most important medical miracle of them all. Yet many mothers refuse to have their children vaccinated. Interestingly, fear should motivate them to vaccinate their children, but ironically it is fear that convinces them erroneously not to vaccinate their children. Hopefully their children to do not suffer from their ignorance.
[Source: A global conspiracy of health, by Michael Gerson]
So what is the good news that I promised. Here it is. In 2013 there were 3.6 million fewer children that died compared to the year 2000. That is 3.6 million fewer dead children in a world that produced a billion more children during that interval. Approximately half of these saved lives was a reduction in childhood death from pneumonia, diarrhea and measles. These saved lives are, almost to a child, the result of the miracle of vaccination. As Mr. Gerson writes, “We are seeing the continuation of what is perhaps the greatest scientific contribution to human well-being: the artificial preparation of the immune system to ward off bacteria and viruses.” And it is the truth.
If modern medicine saves a person from a heart attack, the benefit to that individual is great, but the benefit to humanity is small. By contrast, even economists consider vaccines a global public good. Providing the pneumcoccal vaccine to millions of children helps to protect millions of the elderly who are also susceptible to these infections. Fewer children with the disease reduces the circulation of the causative bacterium. “Once this public good is produced, everyone can enjoy it without reducing anyone else’s share.“
Here is a name to remember, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. This organization based in Geneva, Switzerland is largely responsible for the 1.6 million children who would have but did not succumb to these potentially fatal illnesses. The organization provides heavy but eventually diminishing subsidies for immunizations in poor countries. It also acts as a sort of purchasing co-op, helping nations get better prices on vaccines. And it amounts to a guaranteed market for vaccines that would not otherwise be profitable to research and produce.
Hurrah for Gavi, and hurrah for those that have researched and discovered these life saving vaccines.
This article is adapted from “The Rugged Individualist” blog by Roy Filly
Dr. Roy A. Filly is Emeritus Professor Radiology, Surgery, and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UCSF where he served as Chief of the Section of Diagnostic Sonography for nearly 29 years before stepping down in 2004. He is Cofounder of the UCSF Fetal Treatment Program.