WHO delegates meet to share concerns, pledge assistance to immunize Europe

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that 46 Member States met on March 18-20 to discuss the current state of vaccine-preventable diseases, and set a plan for immunization in the European Region.

Members who had led successful immunization programs and initiatives were provided an opportunity to share concerns, first-hand experiences and plans with each other and representatives of donor agencies and healthcare professionals.

Topics discussed at the forum included the elimination measles and rubella, implications of the Polio Endgame Strategy, ongoing threats to polio-free status, tailoring immunization programs and future plans for European Immunization Week.

Professor Gunter Pfaff, the chairman of a panel on multi-stakeholder involvement in the fight against measles and rubella, encouraged participants to make a bigger political commitment to the movement.

"Accountability for interrupting endemic transmission of these diseases and responsibility for reaching elimination for the Region lies with each Member State," Pfaff said. "Stakeholders and partners can assist in this process but each Member State needs to lead the effort - through implementation of their own accelerated package of activities."

At the meeting, Member States were asked to participated in developing a joint vision and long-term plan for immunization programs in the region. The regional plan focused on making immunization a priority, understanding the value of immunizations and vaccines, extending the benefit of immunization to all people, ensuring immunization systems are an integral part of health systems and making sure programs are sustainable with long-term funding and supplies.

Program Manager of the Vaccine-preventable Diseases and Immunization Program Dina Pfeiffer encouraged Member States to update preparedness plans, and test them through outbreak simulation exercises. As a representative of WHO, she pledged technical support to Member States to assist in carrying out requirements.