Vaccines have delivered enormous benefits for public health over several decades. But how many lives have they actually saved? Recent research led by the World Health Organization looked back at 50 years of data to model the impact of vaccination against 14 of the most important vaccine-preventable diseases.

The study estimates vaccines have saved a whopping 154 million lives since 1974, mostly young children. A child aged under ten has about a 40% greater chance of living until their next birthday, compared to if we didn’t have vaccines.

Our editorial web developer Matt Garrow has worked with epidemiologists Meru Sheel and Alexandra Hogan to bring you five charts setting out some of the key findings of this study. They show what a success vaccines have been over the past half century – and according to Sheel and Hogan, are a timely reminder that we need to continue to prioritise vaccination.

And speaking of numbers, as Treasurer Jim Chalmers unveils the federal budget tonight, we’ll bring you a special package analysing all the key announcements. Look out for our special newsletter this evening, with more coverage to come throughout the week from our political and economics experts.

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who has given to our donations campaign so far. If you value our unique brand of expert news analysis, please consider becoming a donor.

Phoebe Roth

Deputy Health Editor

154 million lives saved in 50 years: 5 charts on the global success of vaccines

Meru Sheel, University of Sydney; Alexandra Hogan, UNSW Sydney

The chance of living one more year is up to 44% more likely thanks to the past 50 years of vaccines, according to new research. But global drops in vaccine coverage pose a risk.

Jim Chalmers’ third budget will have a surplus of $9.3 billion for this financial year

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Tuesday’s budget will show there has been an improvement of $10.5 billion in the bottom line. The update forecasted a deficit of $1.1 billion for 2023-24.

Scrapping the waste export levy threatens Australia’s emerging lithium battery recycling industry

Yasir Arafat, Edith Cowan University; Daryoush Habibi, Edith Cowan University

Allowing our spent lithium batteries to be exported free of charge could mean forfeiting a potential $3 billion onshore reprocessing industry.

AI can make up songs now, but who owns the copyright? The answer is complicated

Wellett Potter, University of New England

With the click of a button, you can now generate songs in any topic and genre you want. But it’s not clear-cut whether you own the music, despite what the app terms say.

Our research shows children produce better pieces of writing by hand. But they need keyboard skills too

Anabela Malpique, Edith Cowan University; Deborah Pino Pasternak, University of Canberra; Susan Ledger, University of Newcastle

It is easy to assume students will be able to write easily and effectively using a keyboard. They are growing up surrounded by technology. But new research shows children write better by hand.

1968 was an inflection point for the US. Is another one coming in 2024?

Liam Byrne, The University of Melbourne; Emma Shortis, RMIT University

There are many parallels between 1968 and today: an unpopular war, a vulnerable Democratic presidential candidate and a divided America.

Is it wrong to have a romantic type based on race? Yes – it’s a form of racism we rarely speak about

Aaron Teo, University of Southern Queensland

ABC comedy series White Fever highlights a type of racism that is nuanced and hard to detect, but is just as harmful to people of colour.

Many new mums struggle, but NZ’s postnatal services often fail to address maternal mental health – new study

Chrissy Severinsen, Massey University; Angelique Reweti, Massey University; Mary Breheny, Massey University

New mothers can experience anxiety and depression. But rushed appointments and impersonal checklists leave many fearful of being judged inadequate or unfit if they admit to struggling.

Long Island, Colm Tóibín’s sequel to Brooklyn, is a tale of love misdirected, misunderstood and misjudged

Kevin John Brophy, The University of Melbourne

Where Brooklyn was a book of suspended decisions and relentlessly increasing pressure, Long Island lets off its explosive at the very beginning.

What causes the different colours of the aurora? An expert explains the electric rainbow

Timothy Schmidt, UNSW Sydney

The electric rainbow of the aurora happens when excited atoms relax via ‘forbidden transitions’.

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