Here are two pictures to help you get into the holiday spirit. The World Health Organization has data on global incidence of various diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. These are numbers aggregated from country reports to the organization, which are subject to considerable error. The WHO warns that reported disease incidence data usually represent only a fraction of actual cases of the disease. Nonetheless, the data is useful to monitor trends in prevalence, and a lot of those trends are a joy to behold. Below, two graphs showing global incidence data for pertussis, measles, polio and diphtheria from 1980 to 2010.
For all of the millions of lives saved and bodies kept whole, the graphs are nothing to do with a Christmas miracle. They reflect tireless work day in and day out by heath officers around the world from Afghanistan to Honduras to Nigeria running vaccination programs, supported by national governments, agencies like GAVI and donors from USAID to Rotary Clubs. And they reflect the increasing number of parents worldwide who recognize the value and importance of vaccinations for their kids. Let’s hope 2012 sees further progress. Perhaps, even, getting the polio line down to the zero mark.