Special Report

The Most Important Vaccines in History

We live in the midst of a global pandemic and with the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. While researchers have yet to find a fully effective treatment for COVID-19 doctors can easily prescribe, they have successfully developed several vaccines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued in December 2020 an emergency use authorization for two vaccines for the prevention of COVID-19. Several other COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized around the world. As of Jan. 25, 2021, more than 68 million people have been vaccinated in 56 countries, according to Bloomberg COVID-19 Tracker.

To determine the most important vaccines in human history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed information from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We considered the deadliest diseases and pandemics and listed 12 vaccines that have saved the most lives.

The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder of what the world used to be like before vaccines helped eradicate many deadly diseases. Fear of paralysis or death from polio and smallpox, for example, was a reality for people everywhere until a few decades ago, when immunization campaigns helped save millions of lives.

Many of the viral diseases on this list have no treatment, but they are no longer widespread because of vaccines. Immunizations against these diseases have prevented at least 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015, according to the WHO. Many more people are healthy and not living with a debilitating disease thanks to immunizations.

Just over 100 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide, and over 2 million deaths have been reported. In the United States, COVID-19 has already killed more than 400,000 people since the virus was first detected in the country at the end of January 2020. Here is the timeline of the coronavirus spread in the U.S.

Click here to read about the vaccines that have saved the most lives.

To identify the most important vaccines in history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed information from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the deadliest diseases and pandemics in history. We selected the conditions for which a vaccine has been developed and routinely administered across the world and that, as a result, the disease has been completely or nearly eradicated. Some of the vaccines are mandatory by a certain age in many countries, including the United States; others are highly recommended or mandated if people travel to a region where the disease is common.