Vaccination is the world’s most effective method of preventing infectious disease. It was pioneered in 1796 by the English doctor Edward Jenner, who observed that milkmaids exposed to cowpox did not later catch smallpox.

Jenner inoculated a young boy with material from cowpox lesions and, two months later, the boy was found to be immune to smallpox. Since these early days, the process of vaccination has become much safer (and more ethical).

Modern vaccination involves the administration of a modified or weakened form of a virus or microorganism, allowing the immune system to learn how to recognise the invader. The immune system is then primed to mount an even better response when the individual is exposed to the microorganism later.

Anti-vaxxer movement: how we got here

Vaccination is leading innovation in preventing disease and saving lives. Thanks to Jenner’s original experiment, the contagious, deadly disease of smallpox has been globally eradicated, considered one of the greatest worldwide medical achievements in history.

Currently, over 26 previously devastating diseases can be prevented by vaccines. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2–3 million lives are saved every year through vaccination. The WHO also reports that about 116.5 million children worldwide receive basic vaccines every year. However, an estimated 19.5 million children miss out on these vaccines yearly, indicating a large untapped market for potential future growth. The vaccines market has always been strong and still shows large potential.

Vaccines offer a net benefit to society: their cost is outweighed by the potential cost of treating the disease being vaccinated for. For instance, studies have shown that the ratio of benefit to cost for diphtheria/pertussis vaccine is 27:1. As a result, many governments subsidise the cost of vaccines, with the US subsidising over half of the vaccines for children.

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Anti-vaxxer movement: a brief history

So, what’s the problem? In 1988, a fraudulent paper suggesting that vaccines are linked to autism was published, sparking the anti-vaccination, or “anti-vaxxer,” movement: a group of people who oppose vaccination, either because they believe vaccines cause autism or because they believe (usually without rigorous scientific evidence) that vaccines are unsafe in some other way.

Unfortunately, with the advance of media and communication comes the ease of spreading misinformation, and although the fraudulent paper was retracted in 2010, it has been reported that as many as one in four Americans still believe that vaccines can cause autism. The anti-vaxxer movement has had a devastating impact on public health, with many preventable diseases making a return – for instance, in 2017, a measles outbreak was reported in Minnesota that was largely ascribed to anti-vaxxer misinformation.

Diagnostic market on a growth trajectory

What impact is this movement having on the vaccination market? As more and more infectious diseases are popping up thanks to a lack of vaccination, the market for diagnosing those diseases is growing.

GlobalData notes that the in-vitro diagnostic market, which is valued at roughly $28 billion globally, has been exhibiting steady worldwide growth. GlobalData further expects that the anti-vaxxer movement will spike a boost in this market. Additionally, new technology is being developed to even further improve vaccination safety in an attempt to assuage any safety concerns.

For example, according to a recent article by González Garcia and colleagues published in Chemical Communications, researchers at the University of South Australia developed self-sterilising microneedles that suppress infection at the injection site.

GlobalData reports that Vaxxas Pty Ltd, in partnership with Merck & Co Inc, is in the clinical development stage of producing the Nanopatch, a needle-free vaccine delivery system. Further innovations will no doubt shape the market for drug delivery products.

The importance of vaccination in public health cannot be overstated, and this is reflected by its large market size and value. So, while the anti-vaxxer movement is creating some important shifts in this market, its overall strengths and opportunities still remain strong and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.