Vaccines and antibiotics have achieved nothing

Myth: Vaccines and antibiotics have achieved nothing. Public health measures such as clean water and good sanitation are the solution to the problem of infectious disease.


Improvements such as clean water and good sanitation were responsible for a dramatic drop in the great water-borne infectious diseases of the nineteenth century. However, by the 1940s and 50s, when clean water and good sanitation were standard in the UK, there were still hundreds of thousands of cases of these often fatal diseases every year.

Vaccines have virtually eradicated some ‘old’ diseases like TB, diphtheria and cholera in developed countries. Recent vaccination programmes, such has meningitis and MMR, have greatly reduced childhood infections. When vaccination is not taken up by a good majority the number of cases, of measles for instance, rises.

Smallpox was eradicated thanks largely to a worldwide vaccination programme and the World Health Organisation aims to eliminate polio worldwide by immunisation. Newer diseases such as HIV and many tropical diseases such as malaria will only be effectively tackled by vaccines.

Associated Links:

• Meningitis vaccine
• Polio vaccine
• HIV and AIDS

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