Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Immunization highlights: 2012

Advocating for immunization

World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan and World Immunization Week

WHO/Pierre Albouy

In May 2012, the 194 Member States of the World Health Assembly endorsed a landmark Global Vaccine Action Plan, a roadmap to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities.

This comprehensive plan involves four mutually reinforcing goals: strengthening routine immunization to meet vaccination coverage targets; accelerating control of vaccine-preventable diseases with polio eradication as the first milestone; introducing new and improved vaccines; and spurring research and development for the next generation of vaccines and technologies. The plan is expected to reduce global childhood mortality, surpassing the targets of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4.

A large and diverse group of stakeholders representing 290 organizations – including representatives and elected officials, health professionals, academics, manufacturers, global agencies, development partners, civil society, media and the private sector in more than 140 countries – contributed their expertise to the development of the Action Plan in a year-long consultation process.

Following the approval by the Health Assembly, WHO is leading efforts ― using exiting partnerships and coordinating mechanisms ― to support regions and countries to adapt the Global Vaccine Action Plan for implementation at the regional and country level. Country involvement in this process reinforces a key tenet of the Action Plan, which is to increase national ownership of immunization programs. A monitoring and accountability framework has been drafted and will be discussed at the 2013 Executive Board Meeting and World Health Assembly.

Lending further support to the Decade of Vaccines, Health Ministers also designate the last week of April as World Immunization Week.

"The Global Vaccine Action Plan focuses on the health needs of people at all stages of life. The plan promotes greater coordination and synergies between immunization and other child, adolescent and reproductive health interventions leading to healthier communities everywhere."

Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health

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World Immunization Week rolls out in more than 180 countries

For the first time in 2012, public health communities in all regions of the world focused at the same time on the importance of vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases. WHO’s World Immunization Week was held from 21 to 28 April 2012 with activities in more than 180 countries.

The theme of the week, Protect your world: Get vaccinated, aimed to reinforce the importance of immunization and encourage people everywhere to vaccinate themselves and their children against serious diseases. It was also a time to recall that, in this rapidly globalizing world, disease outbreaks can affect communities everywhere.

For some regions, these weeks have been an annual tradition to showcase the power of immunization in protecting public health; but this is the first year this recognition is global. Activities implemented during the week ranged from the introduction of newly available vaccines into national immunization programmes to training and workshops for healthcare workers, roundtable discussions with political decision-makers, medical professionals, parents and care givers, as well as vaccination campaigns

Immunization Week Highlights

Watch the 30-second World Immunization Week video which was disseminated widely and aired on CNN International in the lead up and during the Week. The video is available in six languages

In WHO’s African Region, there was a special focus on polio eradication. In addition, other events included the simultaneous launch of two new vaccines – pneumococcal conjugate and rotavirus, to protect children from pneumonia and diarrhoea – in Ghana.

The Region of the Americas celebrated its 10th year anniversary of Vaccination Week in the Americas, with events held from Port au Prince, Haiti, to the border between Barbados, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

All 23 countries and territories in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region participated in the 2012 Vaccination Week, with the main regional event focusing on “reaching every community”.

In the European Region, there was a special focus on reaching vulnerable groups with immunization, and the need to control on-going measles outbreaks.

The South-East Asia Region declared 2012 as the Year of Intensification of Routine Immunization.

The Western Pacific Region also released the third in a series of cartoon videos about the adventures of Vacciboy and Immugirl to bring wider attention to the issue.

"Vaccines have the power not only to save, but also to transform lives – giving children a chance to grow up healthy, go to school and improve their life prospects. The benefits of immunization aren’t only for children. Vaccination offers protection to adolescents and adults against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cervical cancer.

Ironically, the fact that immunization has made many infectious diseases rare or almost unheard of has led some people to believe that they don't need to get vaccinated. But gaps in vaccination coverage put everyone at risk of disease outbreaks."

Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director, WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

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Hepatitis: “It’s closer than you think”

Under the 2012 World Hepatitis Day theme “It’s closer than you think”, WHO urged governments to strengthen efforts to fight viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that kills about one million people every year. An estimated 500 million people experience chronic illness from their infection with hepatitis; it is a major cause of liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. Despite its staggering toll on health, hepatitis remains a group of diseases that are largely unknown, undiagnosed and untreated. WHO launched a new global framework to tackle the disease during World Hepatitis Day. The Prevention and control of viral hepatitis infection: Framework for global action describes four areas of work to prevent and treat hepatitis infection.

Raising awareness, together with promoting partnerships and mobilizing resources constitute the first of the four priorities in WHO’s new framework. The others are: transforming scientific evidence into policy and action; preventing transmission; and screening, care and treatment.

WHO will work with its Member States and partners on all four priority areas of the framework to help expand access to prevention, care and treatment programmes to people who need it. The framework will guide the development of regional and country-specific strategies to combat hepatitis.

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