For the first time, every region of the world is focusing at the same time on the importance of vaccination, during the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Immunization Week, April 21 to 28.
More than 180 countries are set to participate in the global initiative, which builds on similar efforts held in different regions, including the Americas, which this year is celebrating its 10th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas.
Worldwide, immunization is estimated to prevent between two and three million deaths each year from diseases including diphtheria, measles, mumps, tetanus, rubella and whooping cough.
Vaccines are considered one of public health’s "best buys" and are also significant contributors to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG 4, which calls for a two-thirds reduction in child mortality by 2015 (compared with 1990).
“Vaccines have the power not only to save but also to transform lives?giving children a chance to grow up healthy, go to school and improve their life prospects,” said Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals. “The benefits of immunization aren’t only for children. Vaccination offers protection to adolescents and adults against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cervical cancer,” he added.
Vaccination Week in theAmericas, first launched in 2003, was one of the inspirations for World Immunization Week and continues a long history of vaccine-related public health successes in theAmericas. The region was the first to eradicate smallpox (in 1971) and the first to eliminate polio (in 1991), with similar progress in more recent years against measles and rubella. The countries of theAmericashave also been among the first to adopt newly available vaccines such as rotavirus, pneumococcal, and HPV vaccines, with technical and logistical support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO’s Regional Office for theAmericas.
For the global World Immunization Week, planned activities range from the introduction of newly available vaccines into countries’ national immunization programs, to training and workshops for healthcare workers; roundtable discussions with political decision-makers, medical professionals, parents and caregivers; as well as vaccination campaigns.
The global theme for Immunization Week in the Americas, ‘Protect your world–Get vaccinated’,’ emphasizes the importance of immunization and encourages people everywhere to vaccinate themselves and their children. It also reminds people that—in this rapidly globalizing world—diseaseoutbreaks can affect communities everywhere.
Achievements of immunization in the Americas
- Eradication of smallpox in 1971
- Elimination of wild poliovirus in 1991
- Elimination of measles (last endemic case in 2002)
- Elimination of rubella (last endemic case in 2009)
- Control of diphtheria
- In nearly all countries, elimination of neonatal tetanus as a public health problem
- Reduction of whooping cough
- Accelerated introduction of new vaccines, including rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines
Vaccination coverage in the Americas, 2010 (WHO/UNICEF estimates)
- 93% polio vaccine, three doses in children under 1
- 93% DTP3 (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccine, three doses in children under 1
- 93% measles vaccine in 1-year-olds
Vaccines are biological agents that, when applied to health people, provoke an immune response (antibodies). This protects them during future contacts with the infectious agents against which they have been vaccinated, preventing infection or disease.
Vaccines are among humanity’s most beneficial public health measures, preventing diseases that used to cause epidemics and death. Vaccines protect not only vaccinated people but also others in their environment who have not been vaccinated and remain susceptible.
Vaccines are applied through injection or, less frequently, orally (polio, rotavirus). Many vaccines require more than one dose to confer or maintain protection over time.
To facilitate the correct use of vaccines, all countries have childhood immunization schedules that specify which vaccines are to be given in what doses and at what age. To reduce the number of injections, some vaccines are given in combination (e.g., the pentavalent vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Heemophilus influenzae type b).
RELATED VIDEOS: Vaccination week in the Americas
For more information visit: