154 Million Deaths Averted: Contribution of Vaccination over the Past 50 Years


In 1974, the World Health Organization launched its Expanded Programme on Immunization. Now, 50 years later, a study shows that an estimated 154 million deaths have been averted thanks to vaccination. In 2024, a child under 10 years of age is 40% more likely to survive to their next birthday. The study published today in The Lancet was led by Swiss TPH in collaboration with WHO and numerous research organisations.

Children under 10 years of age are today 40% more likely to survive their next birthday, thanks to vaccination since the inception of the WHO Expanded Programme on Immunization in 1974. (Photo: Thomas Schuppisser/Swiss TPH)

In 1974, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), motivated by the progress made thanks to vaccination in eradicating smallpox. Now, 50 years later, WHO together with researchers from a broad range of institutions aimed to quantify the public health impact since the programme’s inception. The results were published today in the prestigious journal The Lancet.

The key results of the study include:

  • Vaccination has averted an estimated 154 million deaths worldwide since 1974, with 146 million of those deaths being among children under the age of 5, including 101 million infants under 1 year old.
  • On average, for every death averted, 66 years of full health were gained, amounting to a staggering 10.2 billion years of full health gained.
  • Vaccination accounts for 40% of the observed decline in global infant mortality rates, with even higher contributions in regions like Africa, where it accounts for 52% of the decline.
  • In 2024, a child under 10 years of age is 40% more likely to survive to their next birthday compared to a hypothetical scenario of no historical vaccination efforts.
  • The benefits of vaccination extend well into late adulthood, with increased survival probabilities observed across age groups.

“These findings underscore the tremendous impact of vaccination on global public health over the past 50 years. Indeed, immunization works, saves life and makes our world a healthier place!” said Jürg Utzinger, Director of Swiss TPH. “We are delighted to have contributed to this landmark study through our expertise in mathematical modelling.” Swiss TPH researchers led the study working with a broad range of colleagues from WHO and research institutes.

The researchers used a suite of mathematical and statistical models to estimate the global and regional public health impact of 50 years of vaccination against 14 pathogens in EPI, including measles, polio and tuberculosis. For the modelled pathogens, they considered coverage of all routine and supplementary vaccines delivered and estimated the mortality and morbidity averted for each age cohort.

“This study is the most comprehensive analysis of the historical impact of vaccinations to date. Infant and child death rates have plummeted over the past 50 years and our findings show that vaccination has been the single largest driver of this progress.” said Andrew Shattock, Senior Scientific Collaborator at Swiss TPH and the University of Basel and first author of the study. “Whilst we should indeed celebrate this achievement, we must also be acutely aware that diseases such as measles, tetanus and tuberculosis continue to take lives. It is therefore the upmost importance that we continue to invest in the most effective medical advancements, including existing and novel vaccines.”

The study was funded by WHO.

Andrew James Shattock

Andrew James Shattock

PhD, Dr.

Senior Scientific Collaborator
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