Field of Science

Why should we support WHO Immunisation week?

Currently, children find themselves vaccinated against the harmful effects of myriad different bacterial and viral pathogens: Corynebacterium diphtheriae (diptheria), Clostridium tetani (tetanus), bordatella pertussis (pertussis/whooping cough), polio (poliovirus), hepatitis (hepatitis A and B virus), Haemophilus influenzae, measles, mumps and rubella viruses, pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae), tuberculososis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) and chickenpox/shingles (varicella zoster virus). Add to these: cholera, human papilloma virus, influenza, meningitis and rotavirus and what you have is a recipe for the improvement of global health.

As many of us in more developed regions of the world rarely come across such things (although it is hard to forget the continuing presence of measles, mumps and influenza across North America and Europe), you may not consider many of these diseases important, yet imagine the effect these pathogens have across the developing world. Think of the young lives lost to these common respiratory pathogens and think of what effect chronic illnesses such as paralytic polio and hepatitis have on not just individuals but communities and families. And, what  must also be remembered is the reason why, we in the developed world, may not come across these terrible diseases - the reason is vaccination. Moreover, the continuing force of rapid and easy global air travel requires us to develop a truly global immunisation effort to prevent the transmission of these pathogens.
This week marks the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Immunisation week which has been set up to focus attention on the continuing importance of protecting our children from common yet serious vaccine-preventable diseases. With 180 countries and territories participating worldwide and specifically holding their own weeks in support of this, teams will aim to extend vaccination coverage and support into areas not easily accessible to immunisation campaigns and importantly begin mass-coverage schemes for the likes of measles and polio. But, what is really important here is that this is not just about vaccination, it is about increasing child survival in a broader sense in already under-developed regions and to this effect, vitamin supplements and other medicines are also being distributed.

WHO immunisation week sets out to:

Engaging communities for immunization

Immunization week is led by WHO to:
  • vaccinate vulnerable populations, for example those living in border areas and urban fringes;
  • raise awareness on the importance of immunization in protecting people against life-threatening illnesses;
  • expand the culture of disease prevention and control though vaccination;
  • ensure continuing political commitment for immunization

The upkeep of global immunisation requires that the worldwide human population is continuously protected via vaccination, remembering that many of those diseases mentioned above still cause significant illness and deaths in across the developed world. Amazingly, it is not as if we need to develop new vaccines to protect from these diseases; we have them already. Vaccination has proved to be a safe and cost-effective means at reducing the effects of these diseases on the global population so support WHO immunisation week and help raise awareness of just how essential a global strategy to vaccination is.

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