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Immunisation in numbers – 5 fascinating facts

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Data blog, Immunisation and vaccination, Public health data

Whichever way you look at it, data around vaccines is both fascinating and inspiring. Immunisation programmes are one of the world’s public health triumphs with many millions of lives saved since the first vaccines were introduced. In this blog we look at some interesting stats, past and present.

1) We've seen 99.9% reductions in infections like diphtheria and Haemophilus influenzae type b
Diphtheria is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that’s highly contagious (spread by coughs and sneezes) but it’s now very rare in the UK as for many years most people have been vaccinated against it. Likewise, ‘Haemophilus influenzae type b’ is a very serious infection especially for infants and young children, with complications including meningitis and blood poisoning. However we now routinely protect infants with a very effective vaccine. The graphic below includes more information on the impact of vaccinations.


2) 39 vaccines have been introduced in the UK
Ever wondered when vaccines were introduced? Smallpox vaccine, the first successful vaccine to be developed, was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796. He followed up his observation that milkmaids who had previously caught cowpox did not later catch smallpox by showing that inoculated cowpox protected against inoculated smallpox. Since then there have been 38 further vaccines introduced here in the UK. The latest programmes are Meningococcal ACWY and Meningococcal B vaccines, launched this year to protect older teenagers and infants from meningitis and septicaemia.

Since their introduction immunisation programmes have been instrumental in reducing (and sometimes even eradicating) devastating infections like smallpox, polio and tetanus. Who can forget that at its peak, more than 1,000 children a day were paralysed by polio across the world?


3) 77% decline in rotavirus infections in babies
For new parents, seeing their baby hospitalised is a nightmare scenario. But since 2013 this situation has been avoided for thousands of families due to the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine. Rotavirus is a common cause of vomiting & diarrhoea in children under five, which prior to vaccination was responsible for thousands of hospitalisations every year.

In 2013 we introduced an oral vaccine and in the first year this led to a 77% decline in laboratory-confirmed rotavirus infections in babies, and a 26% decline in acute gastroenteritis hospitalisations compared to pre-vaccination years. Large reductions were also seen in older children, adults and older adults. It’s estimated that 50,427 acute gastroenteritis hospital admissions were averted in 2013/2014 alone.

4) We've had 535,000+ visits to the Green Book in the last year
Have you heard of ‘The Green Book’? Thousands of health professionals certainly have, as our guide to vaccines and vaccination procedures is one of the most popular pages on PHE’s website receiving well over half a million page views in the last year. Here in the UK we owe a big thank you to the GPs, practice nurses, school nurses, pharmacists and other professionals who ensure immunisation programmes are delivered at the front line and the population is protected against serious infections.


5) Vaccines can protect people who haven’t been vaccinated
In the UK we call on the expertise of a range of professionals to review available evidence and make decisions on when a vaccine is introduced and who is eligible. Sometimes evidence shows that a vaccine could protect both the people who receive it and other groups that don’t. A pilot programme last year showed vaccinating children against flu had dual benefit; as well as protecting them it protects others, such as parents, grandparents and siblings.

flu success FINAL

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