The World Health Organization’s (WHO) wrapped up its annual World Immunization Week. The WHO kicked off the once-yearly effort to re-ignite the world’s public health agencies’ commitment to ensuring that their constituents’ are immunized against vaccine-preventable illnesses on Monday.
Unfortunately, according to the WHO, progress in the effort toward global immunization is lagging with WHO member nations failing to deliver vaccines reliably. According to a WHO press release issued in advance of World Immunization Week, “…only 1 of the 6 key vaccination targets for 2015 is currently on track…”. Member nations are on track to introduce under-utilized vaccines to at least 90 low and middle income countries this year.
Vaccines are critical to healthy populations, preventing 2 - 3 million deaths every year.
Here in the U.S. vaccinations made headlines at the end of 2014 when a measles outbreak originating at a Disney theme park sickened scores of people. By April 24, 2015 the number had risen to close to 150 people in seven states. That outbreak was part of a trend of increasing measles cases in the U.S. years after the disease was declared eliminated in the country in 2000.
The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), which all World Health Organization member states have signed, cites three steps to closing the immunization gap which leaves 20% of the world’s children unimmunized:
- integrating immunizations with other healthcare services,
- ensuring that vaccines happen even during crises, and
- making vaccines widely accessible and affordable.
Vaccine availability hasn’t generally been a problem in the U.S. In fact, vaccination programs have been so successful in the U.S. that few Americans remember a time when infectious diseases like polio were a normal and often deadly part of childhood.
Since the Disney outbreak, state legislatures, parents, schools, children, and a host of other stakeholders have engaged in highly contentious and often emotionally fueled debates about parental responsibility and childhood vaccinations.
The video below lays out the WHO’s goals and the statistics related to closing the gap. Check out previous related posts here.