Disease Eradication by Vaccination


Eradication is the last step in the fight against pathogens and the cessation of their transmission. Several efficacious vaccines have contributed immensely to the reduction of incidence of many diseases, but only a few diseases are amenable to eradication. Vaccines as a health intervention offer the best economic and social value against emerging and re‐emerging diseases and represent the best option for control, elimination and eradication of infectious pathogens. Each eradication programme is different and will require its own strategies and tactics. All eradication programmes, however, require an intensive focus. In addition, a change in mindset will also be needed, especially in rich, developed countries where the dramatic reduction of the incidence of many infectious diseases due to vaccination has now dramatically reduced the perception of the risk linked to these diseases.

Key Concepts

  • Disease eradication is the ultimate goal of all prevention campaigns.
  • Not all infectious diseases can be eradicated even if safe and effective vaccines exist.
  • Vaccines offer the best economic and social value against emerging and re‐emerging diseases.
  • A shift in mindset in developed countries is needed to prevent re‐emergence in those countries of infectious diseases considered under control.

Keywords: disease eradication; vaccines; smallpox; polio; measles; rubella; cost‐benefit

Figure 1.

Recent eradication efforts: steep decline in global polio cases.

*As on March 10, 2015





WHO, Polio Global eradication initiative. Fact file: Polio eradication and endgame strategic plan .

Figure 2. Polio case map update. Source: From http://www.polioeradication.org/Dataandmonitoring/Poliothisweek/Poliocasesworldwide.aspx accessed 4 October 2015.
Figure 3. (a,b) Cumulative costs and cases in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar for a strategy of pursuing eradication versus intense vaccination only while the perceived cost‐effectiveness ratio ($ per case) remains below the tolerable cost‐effectiveness ratio ($ per case). Source: Adapted with permission from Thompson and Duintjer Tebbens (2007) © Elsevier.


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Further Reading

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Rappuoli R, Pizza M, Del Giudice G and De Gregorio E (2014) Vaccines, new opportunities for a new society. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111 (34): 12288–12293.

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Lattanzi, Maria, Del Giudice, Giuseppe, and Rappuoli, Rino(Nov 2015) Disease Eradication by Vaccination. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003386.pub2]