U.N. and WHO encourage families to keep up to date with vaccines

The United Nations said on Thursday that the World Health Organization reported approximately 80 percent of children around the world are receiving vaccinations, but more than 22 million children each year are not.

Immunizations protect between two million and three million people from death related to diphtheria, measles, pertussis, pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella and tetanus each year.

WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals Director Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele said an additional 1.2 million deaths could be avoided if new vaccines for meningitis, pneumonia, cervical cancer and diarrhea were also available.

Okwo-Bele said polio is nearly eradicated, and the global eradication of measles is possible. He said cases of measles in Africa have decreased dramatically and the disease is being eliminated in the Americas, the Pacific region and China.

World Immunization Week occurs annually during the last week of April and encourages families to make sure immunization records are up to date and all family members are protected to avoid complacency.

"The important thing about complacency is that the number of susceptible people who resist or reject facts and information will accumulate, and the disease will come back, as you're seeing in the United States with measles and whooping cough, which are terrible diseases," Tracey Goodman, WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals researcher, said.