The Expanded Programme on Immunization
Benefits of immunization
The first diseases targeted by the EPI were diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, poliomyelitis and tuberculosis. Global policies for immunization and establishment of the goal of providing universal immunization for all children by 1990 were established in 1977, this goal was considered an essential element of the WHO strategy to achieve health for all by 2000.
In 2010, an estimated 85% of children under one year of age globally had received at least three doses of DTP vaccine (DTP3). Additional vaccines have now been added to the original six recommended in 1974. Most countries, including the majority of low-income countries have added hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) to their routine infant immunization schedules and an increasing number are in the process of adding pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and rotavirus vaccines to their schedules.
The Expanded Programme on Immunization remains committed to its goal of universal access to all relevant vaccines for all at risk. The programme aims to expand the targeted groups to include older children, adolescents and adults and work in synergy with other public health programmes in order to control disease and achieve better health for all populations, particularly the underserved populations.
Immunization is a proven tool for controlling and even eradicating infectious diseases. An immunization campaign carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1967 to 1977 resulted in the eradication of smallpox. When the programme began, the disease still threatened 60% of the world's population and killed every fourth victim. Eradication of poliomyelitis is now within reach. Since the launch by WHO and its partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, infections have fallen by 99%, and some five million people have escaped paralysis. Between 2000 and 2008, measles deaths dropped worldwide by over 78%, and some regions have set a target of eliminating the disease. Maternal and neonatal tetanus has been eliminated in 20 of the 58 high-risk countries.