MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

WHO advisory group says universal immunization efforts must continue

WHO member states in the Western Pacific region must keep up efforts to achieve universal immunization coverage to prevent diseases like polio, a WHO advisory group said during a recent meeting.

The Technical Advisory Group on Immunization and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the Western Pacific region conveyed the message during its 22nd meeting between June 25 and June 27 in Manila, the Philippines. Participants from 14 of the 37 countries in the region were on hand to discuss the implementation of the WHO Global Vaccine Action Plan.

"We have achieved truly impressive milestones," Shin Young-soo, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said. "But still, great challenges lie ahead. We need to move forward so that the Western Pacific countries implement their polio endgame strategies by 2018. We also need to implement the Global Vaccine Action Plan in the region in order to reach the goals set in the Decade of Vaccines. This will ensure we reach the target of Millennium Development Goal Number Four-to reduce child mortality by two thirds."

Shin said that while the region kept its polio-free status and China responded well to a 2011 outbreak, there is always a risk the virus could be reintroduced from the outside. The WHO will introduce new vaccines, including the single dose of inactivated polio vaccine, in an effort to keep member states polio-free until the virus is eradicated throughout the world.

The attendees of the meeting also discussed the elimination of measles and stronger hepatitis B control in the region.

"Through immunization efforts such as the Global Vaccine Action Plan, we can continue to make important gains in immunization coverage in the Western Pacific Region," Shin said. "We should strive to ensure that every individual and community is protected from polio, measles, hepatitis and other vaccine-preventable diseases."