Despite the spread of COVID-19 and more dangerous variants, many people around the world are still hesitant about the effectiveness of current coronavirus vaccines.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that vaccine hesitancy is one of the biggest threats to global health.
UNICEF describes vaccines as one of the greatest advances in global health and development. For two centuries, vaccines have protected people from dangerous diseases that would have otherwise lead to millions of deaths.
Every minute, more than five lives are saved due to vaccines, according to UNICEF.
Here are 10 diseases that vaccines have helped bring under control.
Polio is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. It can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord and lead to paralysis.
The disease has been eradicated in all countries except Pakistan and Afghanistan due to disruptions to vaccine programs as a result of ongoing conflict.
Tetanus, often referred to as “lockjaw,” is an infection caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. When the bacteria invades the body, it produces a toxin that causes painful muscle contractions that force a person’s neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow.
Five doses of a Tetanus vaccine are given throughout one’s childhood, with a sixth dose administered during adolescence.
Measles is a very contagious disease that can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications, like pneumonia and a brain infection. A person can be infected with the disease just by being in a room where someone who has the disease was.
The disease is still common in several countries Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, which could put unvaccinated travelers at risk.
4. Influenza (Flu)
Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
The virus mainly spreads through cough, sneeze, and saliva, but a person may also be infected after touching a surface or object that has the virus on it.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu vaccine each year to prevent the illness.
5. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
Hepatitis A (HAV) and B are both incredibly contagious diseases that affect a person’s liver. HAV is found in the stool and blood of infected people and spreads when someone unknowingly ingests the virus — even in microscopic amounts — through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink.
When a person is first infected with Hepatitis B, they can develop an “acute” (short-term) infection. Acute hepatitis B refers to the first 6 months after someone is infected with the hepatitis B virus. This infection can range from a very mild illness with few or no symptoms to a serious condition requiring hospitalization. Some people are able to fight the infection and clear the virus.
However, for others, the infection may remain and become a lifelong disease. Over time, the infection can cause serious health problems, and even liver cancer.
The CDC urges people to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B to prevent infection.
Rubella, also known as the German Measles, is a contagious disease caused by a virus. While the infection may cause mild symptoms or even no symptoms in most people, it can cause serious problems for unborn babies whose mothers become infected during pregnancy.
The vaccine against the Rubella virus is highly effective, according to the CDC. In many countries, rubella infection is rare or even nonexistent. However, because the vaccine isn’t available everywhere, the virus still causes serious problems for babies whose mothers are infected during pregnancy.
Hib disease is a serious illness caused by the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Babies and children younger than 5 years old are most at risk for Hib disease, the CDC said.
The disease can cause lifelong disabilities and may even be deadly.
According to the CDC, even with treatment, 1 out of 20 children with Hib dies. As many as 1 out of 5 children who survive Hib will have brain damage or become deaf.
8. Whooping cough
Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. The disease if marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop.”
Before the development of a vaccine, whooping cough was considered a childhood disease.
Mumps is a viral infection that mostly affects the salivary glands, located near a person’s ears. The infection can cause swelling in one or both of these glands, resulting in puffy cheeks and a tender and sore jaw.
Mumps was quite common in the US until vaccination became routine. Since then, the number of cases has dropped dramatically.
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It causes an itchy, blister-like rash all over the body.
According to the CDC, vaccines against Chickenpox prevent more than 3.5 million cases of chickenpox, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths in the US every year.