Yes. Put simply, if vaccines were not effective, epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases like diphtheria, polio and measles would still be commonplace in all parts of the world. Smallpox would not have been eradicated.
Polio has all but disappeared from most parts of Europe thanks to vaccination. Since the development of the polio vaccines, the number of cases has plummeted. The WHO, professional medical bodies, and even campaigners like Bill Gates and Bono, are working to help bring polio vaccination to the world’s poorest people because they know it will dramatically boost life expectancy and improve quality of life.
In 2010, polio outbreaks in some parts of Central Asia and Africa put a dent in efforts to wipe out the disease, but health authorities believe more comprehensive immunisation programmes are the answer.
Indeed, if vaccines had not been proven to be effective, commercial vaccines would not exist. Manufacturers are required by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to provide proof of protection using extensive clinical studies. Before being licensed and made available to the public, vaccines go through an extensive scientific and regulatory process to ensure their safety and efficacy. This includes clinical studies involving thousands of volunteers who are given the vaccine under investigation. This process does not stop after authorisation is granted, as vaccine safety data is continuously collected and scrutinised by health authorities.
On top of the clinical trials showing vaccine efficacy, there are plenty of ‘real world’ examples of where the introduction of an immunisation campaign led to a direct reduction in new cases of disease.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, when the vaccine which protects against Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) – which causes severe meningitis in infants and toddlers – was introduced in Germany in 1990, the number of Hib meningitis cases fell from between 100 and 200 to just 10.
Nonetheless, vaccines are not 100% foolproof. It is possible for people who have been vaccinated to get sick. The overwhelming evidence is that those who are vaccinated are significantly less likely to contract diseases against which they have been immunised.
For more information, see ‘Vaccination – 20 Objections & Responses’, produced by the Robert Koch Institute and Paul Ehrlich Institute