World Immunization Week Starts With a Global Challenge

Today starts World Immunization Week which is a time to reflect on the major accomplishments we’ve seen on routine vaccinations of children worldwide, but also to look critically at the challenges that children face who are still not fully immunized.

This year the World Health Organization is calling upon the global health community, governments, civil society, and other key actors to close the gap for under-immunized children. Today immunizations curb 2 – 3 million child deaths from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles. each year, but that number of saved lives can be larger.  Today 84 percent of children have received three doses of the DPT vaccine, but a whopping 21.8 million infants do not have complete vaccines, that is 1 in 5 children who still lack all of their basic vaccines.

“World Immunization Week creates a focused global platform to reinvigorate our collective efforts to ensure vaccination for every child, whoever they are and wherever they live,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health. “It is critical that the global community now makes a collective and cohesive effort to put progress towards our 6 targets back on track.”

The World Health Organization has warned this year that there is only one of six key vaccine tracks on target (introduction of under utilized vaccines) to be reached by 2015. The five other targets established by the Global Vaccines Action Plan:  immunization against DPT3, polio, measles, and rubella eradication, and global elimiation of maternal and neonatal tetanus by 2015 are all off course. To get back on track, the WHO argues that vaccine administration must be integrated with postnatal care, strengthen health systems, and to make all vaccines affordable for everyone no matter where they live.

“Immunisation touches more lives than practically any other health intervention on the planet,” said ,Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “As we look ahead to 2020 we must ensure that the systems being built in developing countries will be there for the long term and will continue to save lives and protect health for generations to come.”

This week marks a challenge for low-and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia to make the necessary health systems improvements  in order for vaccines to be readily available for all of its children. In doing so, millions more children, especially those under the age of five,  will survive some of the world’s deadliest diseases.

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