The contribution of vaccination to global health: past, present and future

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 May 12;369(1645):20130433. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0433. Print 2014.


Vaccination has made an enormous contribution to global health. Two major infections, smallpox and rinderpest, have been eradicated. Global coverage of vaccination against many important infectious diseases of childhood has been enhanced dramatically since the creation of WHO's Expanded Programme of Immunization in 1974 and of the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization in 2000. Polio has almost been eradicated and success in controlling measles makes this infection another potential target for eradication. Despite these successes, approximately 6.6 million children still die each year and about a half of these deaths are caused by infections, including pneumonia and diarrhoea, which could be prevented by vaccination. Enhanced deployment of recently developed pneumococcal conjugate and rotavirus vaccines should, therefore, result in a further decline in childhood mortality. Development of vaccines against more complex infections, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, has been challenging and achievements so far have been modest. Final success against these infections may require combination vaccinations, each component stimulating a different arm of the immune system. In the longer term, vaccines are likely to be used to prevent or modulate the course of some non-infectious diseases. Progress has already been made with therapeutic cancer vaccines and future potential targets include addiction, diabetes, hypertension and Alzheimer's disease.

Keywords: global health; vaccination; vaccine development.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Disease Control / methods*
  • Global Health / history*
  • Global Health / trends*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Mass Vaccination / history*
  • Mass Vaccination / trends*
  • Tropical Medicine / history*
  • Tropical Medicine / methods
  • Tropical Medicine / trends*