UN urges Chinese parents to vaccinate children

Parents in China are being urged by the United Nations health agency to get their children vaccinated against measles and hepatitis B to protect their children against premature death and long-term liver problems.

The vaccination appeal was made at a joint press briefing by the Chinese health ministry and the UN World Health Organization ahead of China's National Immunization Day on Sunday.

The theme for China's immunization day this year is “You and Me Together – Measles Elimination and Hepatitis B Control.”

Measles is a leading cause of death in young children globally despite the existence of a safe and cost-effective vaccine. Approximately 733,000 deaths worldwide in 2000 came as a result of measles, the WHO reports, with vaccinations resulting in a 78 percent decline in measles-related deaths worldwide.

“China is strongly committed to eliminating measles,” Lisa Cairns, who heads the Expanded Program for Immunization team at the WHO office in China, told “In 2010, a vaccination campaign throughout the country will help China to stop transmission of measles. The decision to conduct this campaign was taken in consultation with WHO and is based on the success of similar national campaigns in other countries."

Hepatitis B, which is a viral infection that is transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person, damages the liver slowly and leads to severe disease and potentially death in adulthood. Since large-scale immunization began against the disease in 1992, it has almost disappeared in younger children.