WHO global health days

Campaign essentials

World Immunization Week 2013: Protect your world - get vaccinated

Origins the campaign, public health context

Origins of the campaign

Immunization Week initiatives began in the WHO Region of the Americas in 2003. The Week was observed simultaneously in WHO’s six regions for the first time in 2012, with the participation of more than 180 countries, territories and areas worldwide.

The World Health Assembly endorsed World Immunization Week during its May 2012 meeting, alongside the Global Vaccine Action Plan. World Immunization Week – which takes place during the last week in April every year – gives countries and our partners around the world a focused opportunity to raise public awareness of how immunization saves lives – during the same week, every year, in every country. Activities include vaccination campaigns, training workshops, round-table discussions, public information campaigns, and more.

Public health context

Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions and prevents between two and three million deaths every year. Immunization protects against diseases such as diphtheria, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella and tetanus. The benefits of immunization are increasingly being extended from children to adolescents and adults, providing protection against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cancers (cervical and liver cancers).

However, even now, around 22 million infants are not fully immunized with routine vaccines and more than 1.5 million children under five die from diseases that could be prevented by existing vaccines.

Around 22 million infants are not fully immunized.

World Immunization Week 2013

The percentage of infants worldwide being fully vaccinated with diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine is holding steady: an estimated 83% in 2011, compared with 83% in 2009 and 84% in 2010.

While this is commendable, further efforts are needed to ensure that people all over the world are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. More than half of all incompletely vaccinated children live in one of three countries: India (32% of incompletely vaccinated children), Nigeria (14%), and Indonesia (7%).

Strengthening routine immunization in countries with the highest number of unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated children will substantially reduce the number of susceptible children worldwide and limit the occurrence and spread of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The Global Vaccine Action Plan is a roadmap to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities. It was endorsed by all WHO Member States at the World Health Assembly in May 2012. This comprehensive plan has four mutually-reinforcing goals (see Box 1).

Box 1: Goals of the Global Vaccine Action Plan

  • Strengthen routine immunization to meet vaccination coverage targets.
  • Accelerate control of vaccine-preventable diseases with polio eradication as the first milestone.
  • Introduce new and improved vaccines.
  • Spur research and development for the next generation of vaccines and technologies.