WHO global health days

World Immunization Week 2016: Close the immunization gap

24-30 April 2016

World Immunization Week – celebrated in the last week of April – aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunization saves millions of lives and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions.

Immunization campaign in the Region of Americas.

Second year of a multi-year campaign

This will be the second year of the Close the Immunization Gap campaign, which celebrates the enormous successes to date in reaching children all over the world with life-saving vaccines while also stressing the challenges we still face.

The 2016 campaign additionally stresses the need for immunization among adolescents and adults - throughout life. And seeks to draw the world’s attention to the critical importance of reaching vulnerable people living in conflict situations or in the wake of emergencies.

Removing barriers to immunization

The WHO Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) - endorsed by the 194 Member States of the World Health Assembly in May 2012 - has the ambitious goal of reaching universal coverage with vaccines worldwide by 2020. The GVAP aims to:

  • accelerate control of vaccine-preventable diseases with polio eradication as the first milestone and step up efforts to eliminate measles, rubella and maternal and neonatal tetanus and other diseases
  • strengthen national routine immunization programmes to meet vaccination coverage targets
  • introduce new and improved vaccines
  • spur research and development for the next generation of vaccines and technologies.

Recent progress

There have been exciting developments over the past year:

  • the target for introduction of new or under-utilized vaccines is on track worldwide, with 86 low- and middle-income countries introducing 128 vaccines since 2010
  • promising candidate vaccines against Ebola were developed and tested in record time
  • Africa has not had a case of wild poliovirus since August 2014 – an enormous achievement that brings the region closer than ever to being certified polio-free
  • India has been declared free of maternal and neonatal tetanus, demonstrating disease elimination is possible even in challenging circumstances
  • the Americas became the first region to eliminate rubella and congenital rubella syndrome

Challenges ahead

Progress towards reaching the goals of the current Decade of the Vaccine has stalled in some countries. Lack of access to health services, a shortage of accurate information about immunization, insufficient political and financial support and inadequate supply of vaccines in some areas all play a part.

WHO encourages governments and health partners to join the 2016 campaign and help raise awareness about the importance of immunization, increase demand for it by communities and improve vaccination delivery services so the benefits of immunization are available equitably to all people. A variety of resources are being made available to support local campaigns, including fact sheets, infographics, posters and multi-media materials.

Related links

Countdown to 2016 World Immunization Week