The aim of World Immunization Week is to promote one of the world’s most powerful tools for health – the use of vaccines to protect, or ‘immunize’, people of all ages against disease.
Immunization prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year. Without vaccines, global eradication of smallpox and the elimination of polio and measles from large parts of the world would have been impossible. New, improved vaccines are now available to protect not just children, but also adolescents and adults. Yet 1 in 5 children (22.6 million), and many adults, are missing out every year.
The theme for this year’s World Immunisation Week is “Closing the Gap” – a direct appeal to the global health community to focus on vaccinating the most marginalised children and completing this unfinished agenda in child health. The poorest, most vulnerable children who need immunisation the most continue to be the least likely to get it. Vaccines are often expensive for the world’s poorest countries, such as those to which Inter Care sends medical aid. Supply shortages and a lack of trained health workers also mean that vaccines are frequently not available where they are needed most.
Immunization is especially important for the hardest to reach families as it can also be a bridge to other life-saving care for mothers and children in isolated communities – such as child nutritional screening, anti-malarial mosquito nets, vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets.