The R&D-based vaccine industry has a long history of working with governments, academia and the nonprofit sector to research and develop many new and essential vaccines. Widely considered one of the most important public health advances in history, vaccines have contributed significantly to the health of nations. Through industry's efforts and expertise in translating basic science into the development of vaccines that are safe, effective and can be mass-produced, many deaths have been prevented as vaccines have been delivered to millions of people, mostly children.
In the U.S. alone, vaccines to prevent eighteen different diseases are routinely recommended and administered to children and adults.i Europe, Japan and many other countries have recognized the value of vaccines over the years, and are increasingly expanding their recommendations. The widespread global use of vaccines can eradicate diseases, as evidenced by the eradication of smallpox. Global efforts are ongoing to eradicate polio, with many countries and regions already certified as polio free.ii Vaccination also is an example of how individual actions affect entire communities, and is an important tool for strengthening economies.iii
The Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) Vaccine
To appreciate the vast impact of vaccines, it’s helpful to consider what one vaccine has done for communities in the developing world. The Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine, which was studied, manufactured, and licensed primarily by the R&D-based industry, has greatly benefited public health, economic development, and society.iv Just five years after the Hib vaccine was introduced in Uganda in 2002, the country’s number of confirmed cases of Hib meningitis dropped to nearly zero.v Researchers estimated that in the absence of the vaccine, 23,310 children under the age of five would have been infected with Hib pneumonia and 4,662 with Hib meningitis, leading to more than 5,000 deaths in Uganda in 2007 alone.vi
Vaccine Impact: Cost & Economics
In many developed and middle income countries, vaccines have repeatedly been shown to be cost effective because of their success in preventing diseases, affordability and typically limited use in a person’s lifetime, compared to costs of treating diseases. More recently, analyses of cost effectiveness have been performed in a number of developing countries with similar results.vii For example, a recent study in Kenya concluded that the Hib vaccine is a highly cost-effective intervention, saving the nation more than $870,000 in treatment costs for children born in 2004.viii
Vaccines also have been shown to improve economic growth by protecting individuals from the long-term effects of an illness on their physical, emotional, and cognitive development.ix Invasive Hib disease, for example, can cause brain damage and developmental delays, which can have a negative impact on a child’s life prospects.x By introducing the vaccine, researchers estimate that 28,000 cases of pneumonia and meningitis, 5,000 deaths and 1,000 severe neurologic complications have been prevented among children each year in Uganda alone.xi