The theme for the just concluded Vaccination Week in the Americas was “Go for the gold! Get vaccinated!” This also coincided with World Immunization Week 2016 during the same period which was from April 24-30.
Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, commends the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) with respect to its annual initiative in the Americas as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) for the recent gains in immunization coverage.
CPS will be organizing its own vaccination open house early June.
Last year immunization at a global level led to several wins in the fight against polio, rubella and maternal and neonatal tetanus. Polio was eliminated in one country, tetanus in three, and rubella in one geographical region.
According to the WHO, on a global level, immunization averts two to three million deaths annually; however, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves. Today, an estimated 18.7 million infants – nearly one in five children – worldwide are still missing routine immunizations for preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus.
In 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), a commitment to ensure that no one misses out on vital immunizations. Despite gains in vaccination coverage in some regions and countries the past year, global vaccination targets remain off track.
The Region of the Americas became the first to eliminate rubella, a contagious viral disease that can cause multiple birth defects as well as fetal death when contracted by women during pregnancy.
Additionally, five years after the introduction of an affordable conjugate meningitis A vaccine, immunization of more than 230 million people has led to the control and near elimination of deadly meningitis A disease in the African “meningitis belt” that stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia.
New vaccines against dengue, Ebola and malaria have the potential to be game-changers in immunization in the near future. For example, through a “ring-vaccination” strategy, the Ebola vaccine is being given to anyone who has come into contact with a person infected with Ebola, as well as contacts of theirs.
And, the new polio vaccination regimen, with the withdrawal of type 2 oral polio vaccine in 155 countries this month, represents a critical step towards a polio-free world.
CPS points out that much progress has been made globally to increase immunization coverage, adding that it’s very important to get children vaccinated so they can grow up healthy and strong.