WHO data on global vaccine coverage only goes back to 1980 despite humans having experimented with vaccines and inoculations (giving yourself a mild form of a disease to gain immunity) since the 16th century. But strides in global vaccine coverage – defined by the WHO as the share of one-year-olds having received a vaccine – have been made in the last 40 years as well.
In 1980 only around 20 percent of children in the world received the vaccines for tuberculosis, DTP (diphtheria/tetanus/whooping cough) and polio. While the former two were developed in the 1920s, the polio vaccine became commercially available in 1961. Coverage rates for the three diseases rose to approximately 80 percent in the ten years up until 1990.
The immunization against hepatitis B, the world’s first genetically modified vaccine, was made available in the early 1980s and also reached a global coverage of 80 percent in 2012. Measles vaccinations, on the other hand, have been available since the 1960s but have only reached around 69 percent of children globally (two doses), comparable to the HIB vaccine against a virus causing meningitis, which is now reaching 72 percent of all children worldwide.