Mass Vaccination: Global Aspects — Progress and Obstacles

Volume 304 of the series Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology pp 1-16

Mass Vaccination: When and Why

  • D. L. HeymannAffiliated withWorld Health Organization
  • , R. B. AylwardAffiliated withWorld Health Organization

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With increased demand for smallpox vaccination during the nineteenth century, vaccination days—early mass vaccination campaigns—were conducted over time-limited periods to rapidly and efficiently protect maximum numbers of susceptible persons. Two centuries later, the challenge to rapidly and efficiently protect populations by mass vaccintion continues, despite the strengthening of routine immunization services in many countries through the Expanded Programme on Immunization strategies and GAVI support. Perhaps the most widely accepted reason for mass vaccination is to rapidly increase population (herd) immunity in the setting of an existing or potential outbreak, thereby limiting the morbidity and mortality that might result, especially when there has been no routine vaccination, or because populations have been displaced and routine immunization services disrupted. A second important use of mass vaccination is to accelerate disease control to rapidly increase coverage with a new vaccine at the time of its introduction into routine immunization programmes, and to attain the herd immunity levels required to meet international targets for eradication and mortality reduction. In the twenty-first century, mass vaccination and routine immunization remain a necessary alliance for attaining both national and international goals in the control of vaccine preventable disease.