Millennium Development Goals
Immunization's contribution to reaching the Millennium Development Goal on child survival
"Malaria has never had a vaccine get this far. If licensed, it would be the very first human vaccine against a parasitic disease."
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.
Immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases is essential to reaching Millennium Development Goal 4 on reducing under-five mortality by two thirds by 2015.
This is because millions of children die from diseases that can be prevented through vaccines. Progress is being made. For example, in 2010 an estimated 109 million children under the age of one were vaccinated with three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine. Immunization is also a key strategy to ensure global health and to respond to the threat of emerging infections such as pandemic influenza.
Exciting developments are taking place in vaccine research with encouraging clinical trial results on several vaccines against life-threatening infectious diseases. In 2010-2011, six countries have introduced a new meningococcal A conjugate vaccine, MenAfriVac, which has the potential to eliminate the leading cause of meningitis epidemics in Africa. And the first results from a large-scale phase 3 clinical trial of the most advanced malaria vaccine candidate, RTS,S/AS01 show a 55% reduction in the frequency of malaria episodes during the 12 months of follow-up in children 5-17 months of age at first immunization.
Challenges, however, remain. An estimated 19.3 million children under the age of one were not vaccinated in 2010. Nearly seventy percent of these children live in ten countries: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and Uganda.
To overcome these challenges, WHO and UNICEF recommend that countries implement the strategies in the "Global Immunization Vision and Strategy 2006-2015". Its main strategic areas are to: 1. immunize "hard to reach" infants and other age groups through a focus on the district level; 2. increase the availability and affordability of new life-saving vaccines; 3. deliver key health interventions, including insecticide-treated nets against malaria, vitamin A supplements, and deworming medicine during immunization contacts, especially for the "hard to reach" and 4. strengthen cross-border collaboration and coordination to ensure a reliable supply of vaccine, sustainable financing of vaccination and epidemic preparedness.
Immunization, one of the most successful and cost-effective public health investments, has saved countless lives and is responsible for averting between two and three million deaths each year. Immunization leads to significant economic benefits as it protects individuals not only against getting an illness but also against the long-term effects of that illness on their physical, emotional and cognitive development. When children grow up healthier, they do better in school and are more productive as adults. Therefore, it is critical that governments place investing in immunization high on their national health agendas.
Last updated: 2 May 2012
Last updated: 2 May 2012