Nothing prevents viral or bacterial infections quite as well as a vaccine, which trains the human immune system to attack invading microbes before they can establish themselves in the body and cause diseases that can lead to death or a lifetime of disability.
Vaccines can be composed of dead or inactivated pathogens, but are increasingly made from purified antigens—proteins or other biomolecules found on the pathogen being targeted.
Once the immune system is exposed to these antigens, it learns to recognize and attack the pathogen that bears them before the infectious agent has a chance to cause disease. But the protective power of a vaccine can reach beyond those who have received it. Vaccinating even one person in a community against an infectious disease can impede the transmission of that disease to other people. In this way, vaccines protect not only the people who have received the immunization, but others as well.
This is one of the reasons the World Health Organization (WHO) considers vaccines the most cost-effective healthcare intervention available today1; the only measure that has done more to improve global health in the past century is access to clean drinking water2.
In the US, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a dozen often deadly diseases targeted by childhood vaccinations—from polio to diphtheria—have been either eliminated or have declined in incidence by more than 90 percent over the past century3. The WHO estimates that vaccines saved the lives of more than two million people in 2003 alone by preventing the onset of a host of preventable diseases4.
While vaccines have eradicated devastating diseases such as smallpox, the battle against infectious disease is far from over. Novartis continues to strive to develop and deliver innovative vaccines against pathogens that have long proved intractable, as well as those that are only now emerging as threats to global health; one such threat is the H5N1 avian influenza virus, thought most likely to cause the next influenza pandemic.
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Disease & products
Learn about meningitis, influenza, rabies, TBE and japanese encephalities.