Good News: Vaccines Are Conquering The World

01/21/2014 04:42 pm ET | Updated Dec 24, 2014

SEATTLE -- In spite of what it might feel like when you read the news, we are living in history's greatest era. Life expectancy has more than doubled in the past century. Extreme poverty has dropped by half since 1990. In that same time, the number of children who die each year has plummeted more than 40 percent. And more children are getting an education. The world is better than it has ever been.

But it isn't good enough. There is still a tremendous amount to do.

As I look out at 2014 and beyond, there are a number of important, simple steps that could make a substantial difference in making the world a healthier and more stable place. Let me name just two.

As a vaccine fan, I'm excited about the continued rollout of a vaccine called pentavalent (because it prevents five diseases). Next year it will be available in South Sudan, the last of the 73 poorest countries to introduce it. India just announced that they'll start giving it to every child in the nation in 2014. If other countries follow India's example, pentavalent could prevent 7 million deaths by 2020.

Add to that expanding the reach of vaccines that prevent pneumonia and rotavirus and we could see even more dramatic decline in deaths of children in the poor world.

So what does the future hold? More healthy kids, which leads to smaller family sizes and creates a world where families -- and countries -- can thrive. But it requires a commitment to make sure the tools we have reach everyone who needs them, and to invest in creating new tools that the world's poor so desperately need.