Key Facts About Global Immunisation & Its Many Challenges

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Immunisation is the process in which individuals are made immune or resistant to harmful infections by the administrating appropriate vaccines. All forms of immunisation work the same way. When a person is vaccinated, their body produces an immune response which is similar to the response after exposure to a disease, but without the associated symptoms. When an immunised person comes in contact with that particular disease in the future, their immune system responds quickly to prevent them from developing the disease.

Immunisation has remained the most effective tool for managing and even eliminating infectious life-threatening diseases and is one of the most cost-effective health initiatives that are accessible to even the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations. It can be delivered effectively through simple outreach activities and vaccination does not require any major lifestyle change.

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According to global health statistics, immunisation averts an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year from measles, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

The number children worldwide who are administered recommended vaccines have remained steady for the past few years. For example, during 2012, about 110.6 million infants around the world received three doses of DTP3 (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine, protecting them against infectious diseases that can cause serious illness, disability or death. By the end of 2012, at least 131 countries had reached about 90% coverage of DTP3.

Key challenges to global immunisation

Unfortunately, despite a significant increase in global vaccine coverage during the past few years, there continue to be persistent regional and local disparities, usually in developing countries. The reasons behind these discrepancies in developing countries are because of limited resources, poor management of health systems, competing health priorities and insufficient monitoring and supervision.

In 2012 itself, even with the large scale global initiative, an estimated 22.6 million infants in different parts of the world could not be reached to be given routine immunisation services. More than half of the children who did not receive any vaccination were from Nigeria, Indonesia and India.

The Solution: The Global Vaccine Action Plan

Global health experts agree that the only way to eradicate these diseases completely is to give priority to strengthening routine vaccination programmes globally, especially in those countries that are home to the highest number of unvaccinated children. Special efforts are necessary to reach the underserved population, especially those in remote areas, fragile states, strife-torn regions and deprived urban settings. The key to success lies in educating these populations about the importance of immunisations and a concerted effort to dispel the myths that surround this health initiative. 

WHO is working tirelessly with countries and partners to improve global vaccination coverage and is leading efforts to support regions and countries as they adapt the GVAP for implementation. The GVAP or Global Vaccine Action Plan is a roadmap to prevent millions of deaths worldwide through easier access to vaccines. While the GVAP aims to fast track management of all vaccine-preventable diseases, eradication of polio is set as the first milestone.

World Immunisation Week

The last week of April each year is marked by WHO and partners as World Immunisation Week. It aims to increase public awareness of how immunisation saves lives and encourages people everywhere to vaccinate themselves and their children against deadly diseases.

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