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The Role of the WI-38 Cell Strain in Saving Lives and Reducing Morbidity

1 University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
2 University of California at San Francisco, USA

Special Issues: Applied Demography and Public Health

The modern success story of vaccinations involves a historical chain of events that transformed the discovery that vaccines worked, to administering them to the population. We estimate the number of lives saved and morbidity reduction associated with the discovery of the first human cell strain used for the production of licensed human virus vaccines, known as WI-38. The diseases studied include poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chicken pox), herpes zoster, adenovirus, rabies and Hepatitis A. The number of preventable cases and deaths in the U.S. and across the globe was assessed by holding prevalence rates and disease-specific death rates constant from 1960–2015. Results indicate that the total number of cases of poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, adenovirus, rabies and hepatitis A averted or treated with WI-38 related vaccines was 198 million in the U.S. and 4.5 billion globally (720 million in Africa; 387 million in Latin America and the Caribbean; 2.7 billion in Asia; and 455 million in Europe). The total number of deaths averted from these same diseases was approximately 450,000 in the U.S., and 10.3 million globally (1.6 million in Africa; 886 thousand in Latin America and the Caribbean; 6.2 million in Asia; and 1.0 million in Europe).
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