Vaccine-Preventable Diseases


Measles is one of the most contagious and infectious diseases. It spreads through coughing and sneezing, and 90 percent of unimmunized people who come into contact with an infected person will catch measles. Though treatable in the U.S., the disease can be deadly in places without proper medical care, nutrition or sanitation. Measles can also leave children blind, deaf and brain-damaged.

  • The Measles & Rubella Initiative has helped to vaccinate one billion children in more than 80 developing countries, decreasing measles deaths globally by 78 percent.
  • Despite this progress, measles still kills an estimated 330 people each day—the majority of whom are young children.


Polio attacks a child’s nervous system and can cause muscle weakness, paralysis or even death.

  • Thanks to polio vaccination, five million people who would have otherwise been paralyzed are able to walk and polio cases are down 99 percent. Never before has the world been this close to eradicating polio.
  • However, the disease has recently reemerged in areas that had been polio-free for years. Until permanently eradicated, polio anywhere remains a real threat to children everywhere.
  • Polio remains endemic in three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Other countries, including Angola, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have experienced a recent resurgence in polio transmission.

Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial disease that can cause meningitis and pneumonia. While this disease is easily preventable, it is a leading killer of children under five around the world. Preventing the disease through a vaccine will save millions of lives.

  • Pneumonia, the most common symptom of pneumococcal disease, accounts for 18 percent of child deaths in developing countries, making it the number one vaccine-preventable cause of death worldwide.
  • In 2010, the GAVI Alliance, an international vaccine financing partnership, began a program to introduce pneumococcal vaccinations to more than 40 countries by 2015. Once at full capacity, the program could save the lives of three to four million children over the next 10 years.


Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children.

  • Each year, more than half a million children under age five die as a result of rotavirus, and almost 2 million more become severely ill.
  • In July 2011, Sudan became the first GAVI-eligible African country to roll out the rotavirus vaccine. GAVI will support the introduction of rotavirus vaccine in more than 40 countries by 2015. GAVI aims to focus its support on the world’s poorest countries. GAVI-eligibility is therefore determined by national income.

Related Blog Posts

I Hate Measles

January 25, 2013 BY Dr. Natasha Burgert

2011 saw a dangerous resurgence of measles. In neighborhoods throughout the world, people were getting sickened by this vaccine-preventable disease. And despite measles being declared eliminated in 2000, the US was no longer being spared.... READ MORE »

POSTED IN: Champions, Parenthood, Partners, Supporters

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Q&A: How India Stopped Polio

January 11, 2013 BY Eric Porterfield

An interview with Jeffrey Bates at UNICEF READ MORE »

POSTED IN: Global Health, Partners

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Paralympian: We can't afford to lose the fight against polio

October 24, 2012 BY Dennis Ogbe

(CNN) -- As an athlete, I enjoy competition -- but there is a battle happening off the field that is more important: the fight to end polio. This fight is personal to me. I grew up in Nigeria, where I contracted polio at the age of 3. It was tough being the only kid on the playground in a wheelchair. For years I watched the other kids play, and when I tried to participate, they moved away from me... READ MORE »

POSTED IN: Global Health

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