FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

WHO urges increased vaccination during World Immunization Week

The world urgently needs to improve vaccination supplies and better convey the health benefits provided by vaccines, according to a recent World Health Organization message for World Immunization Week.

World Immunization Week, which began on Saturday, is part of an international effort to protect the world by increasing vaccinations in 180 different countries to reach universal immunization coverage. The WHO estimates that up to 22 million children do not get immunizations against preventable diseases.

According to the United Nations, vaccination prevents an estimated two to three million deaths each year from preventable diseases like tetanus, rubella, diarrhea, polio, rotavirus, pneumonia, whooping cough, measles and diphtheria.

"We have seen some major advances in the development and delivery of vaccines in the past few years," Flavia Bustreo, the assistant director-general at WHO, said. "But many countries still face obstacles in getting life-saving vaccines to every child who needs them."

Vaccine challenges include not being able to keep vaccines at the correct temperature and incorrect record keeping that prevents healthcare workers from gaining access to children. Another challenge is communicating the health benefits of vaccines to counter myths that the shots cause negative side effects or do not work. Failure to communicate the benefits of vaccines can cause complacency and gaps in immunization coverage.

"Close to 80 percent of infants worldwide have received the full course of basic vaccines, and this is very high in comparison to many other public health programs," Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, the head of the WHO's immunization division, said. "But we are short of reaching universal coverage. Twenty percent short - and this explains why we are behind schedule in achieving, for example, the eradication of polio."