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Two Studies and a Commentary Explain Why Vaccines Work Well, But Not If We Become Complacent About Their Administration

August 22, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared vaccines one of the top 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. However, the World Health Organization declared vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 threats to global health. To help understand why vaccines have earned their place on both lists, we are publishing 2 studies and a commentary regarding the value of vaccination in infants and children this month in Pediatrics

The first of these studies, by Talbird et al (10.1542/peds.2021-056013) evaluated the role of routine childhood immunizations in reducing vaccine-preventable diseases in 2019 compared to the expected rate before vaccine availability. The authors found that routine vaccination reduced the incidence of all vaccine-preventable illnesses, with decreases ranging from 17% for influenza to 100% for illnesses such as diphtheria, haemophilus influenzae, measles, mumps, polio, and rubella. Based on the population of the US in 2019, this study projects that the current administration of vaccines in infants and children can lead to a reduction of more than 24 million vaccine-preventable diseases annually.

A second study, by Carrico et al (10.1542/peds.2021-056007) modeled the economic benefits of routine childhood vaccination using the 2017 US birth cohort. The authors estimate that routine childhood vaccinations prevented over 17 million cases of disease and 31,000 deaths in the 2017 birth cohort and that the $8.5 billion cost of vaccination was offset by $63.6 billion societal costs averted due to disease prevention. 

Unfortunately, vaccine coverage has dropped with the COVID-19 pandemic—not just due to vaccine hesitancy by some for the COVID-19 vaccines, but for all vaccines. What does this mean for maintaining the health gains made thus far in vaccine-preventable diseases? To answer that question, we solicited a commentary from Drs. Michael Warren and Monique Hanna from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (10.1542/peds.2022-057831). They point out factors that could reduce vaccination in the US, including misinformation delivered online and social media, inequities in vaccine access, and the disruptive nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors of this important commentary call us to action with suggestions that will help overcome the barriers to vaccination coverage. Check out both studies and accompanying commentary and share what you find successful in maintaining or even improving vaccination rates in your practice. 

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