These 12 Vaccines Saved the Most Lives

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Hundreds of millions of people have died prematurely before vaccinations were developed and began to be routinely administered. Fear of paralysis or death from polio and smallpox was a reality for people everywhere until a few decades ago.

Today, we live with the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, for which there is no treatment or vaccine. More than 3.6 million cases have been confirmed worldwide, and nearly 250,000 deaths have been reported. In the United States, the COVID-19 has already killed 70,000 people since the virus was first detected in the country at the end of January. These are the states where COVID-19 is spreading the fastest right now.

The global pandemic is a reminder of what the world used to be before vaccines helped eradicate many deadly diseases and what it could have been like without immunizations — hundreds of thousands of people dying prematurely. 24/7 Tempo compiled a list of vaccines that have saved the most lives over the last century after reviewing information about the deadliest diseases and pandemics in history from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The fight against viruses and other infectious diseases is far from over. Still, while many of the viral diseases on this list have no treatment, they are not spreading widely because of vaccines. These treatments have prevented at least 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015. A lot more people are healthy and not living with a debilitating disease because of immunizations.

To identify 12 vaccines that have saved the most lives, 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 the vaccine can help prevent is common.