To what extent has the National Vaccination Programme contributed to the prevention of disease and mortality since the beginning of the 20th century? This is the question Maarten van Wijhe and others were looking to answer in his doctoral research. He has studied the role of the National Vaccination Programme (RVP) in the reduction of childhood mortality since its introduction in the Netherlands in 1953.

The study demonstrates that the mortality burden caused by diseases from the National Vaccination Programme gradually decreased prior to the introduction of the programme. However, after the introduction of the National Vaccination Programme, the percentage of the total mortality burden caused by infectious diseases from the programme immediately decreased rapidly to near zero. He concludes that the National Vaccination Programme has played a major role in the reduction of childhood mortality.

It is estimated that since 1953 between 6,000 and 12,000 deaths of children between 0 and 20 have been prevented by the vaccinations against diptheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis and measles from the National Vaccination Programme. In follow-up research, Maarten will study the extent of the decrease of the burden of disease and map the costs of the programme. By late 2017, the complete research will provide increased insight into the effectiveness of the National Vaccination Programme. His study was published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases.