World Immunization Week – celebrated in the last week of April – aims to highlight the collective action needed to ensure that every person is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. This year’s theme: “Protected Together, #VaccinesWork”, encourages people at every level – from donors to the general public – to go further in their efforts to increase immunization coverage for the greater good.
Immunization saves millions of lives and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions. Yet, there are more than 19 million unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children in the world, putting them at serious risk of these potentially fatal diseases. Of these children, 1 out of 10 never receive any vaccinations, and most likely have never been seen by the health system.
Immunization can protect against 25 different infectious agents or diseases, from infancy to old age, including diphtheria, measles, pertussis, polio and tetanus. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates active immunization currently averts 2 to 3 million deaths every year. However 22.6 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines, mostly in developing countries.Inadequate immunization coverage rates often result from limited resources, competing health priorities, poor management of health systems and inadequate surveillance.
The goal of World Immunization Week is to raise public awareness of how immunization saves lives, and support people everywhere to get the vaccinations needed against deadly diseases for themselves and their children.
2018 Campaign objectives
As part of the 2018 campaign, WHO and partners aim to:
- Highlight the importance of immunization, and the remaining gaps in global coverage
- Underscore the value of vaccines to target donor countries and the importance of investing in immunization efforts
- Highlight the ways in which everyone – from donors to individuals – can and must drive vaccine progress.
Progress towards the Decade of Vaccines
The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) – endorsed by 194 Member States of the World Health Assembly in May 2012 – aims to prevent millions of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases by 2020 through universal access to immunization. Despite improvements in individual countries and a strong global rate of new vaccine introduction, all of the GVAP targets for disease elimination—including measles, rubella, and maternal and neonatal tetanus—are behind schedule.
In order for everyone, everywhere to survive and thrive, countries must make more concerted efforts to reach GVAP goals by 2020. Additionally, those countries that have achieved or made forward progress towards achieving the goals must work to sustain those efforts over time – so that no person goes without life-saving vaccines.
Dr. Saranjit Kaur
MBBS, MD, FIAP