Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The first-ever World Health Organization’s World Immunization Week (WIW) has kicked off with activities in more than 180 countries, the global health body has announced.
The commencement of the week (21-28 April) marks the first time public health communities in all regions of the world are focussing at the same time on the importance of vaccination against deadly diseases.
The theme of the week, ‘Protect your world – Get vaccinated’, aims to reinforce the importance of immunization and encourage people everywhere to vaccinate themselves and their children against serious diseases. It is also a time to recall that - in this rapidly globalizing world - disease outbreaks can affect communities everywhere.
“Vaccines have the power not only to save, but also to transform lives - giving children a chance to grow up healthy, go to school and improve their life prospects,” a WHO statement obtained by PANA here quoted Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at the WHO, as saying.
“The benefits of immunization aren’t only for children. Vaccination offers protection to adolescents and adults against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cervical cancer,” he added.
Immunization is estimated to prevent between two and three million deaths each year from diseases like diphtheria, measles, mumps, tetanus, rubella and whooping cough.
Vaccines are considered one of public health’s ‘best buys’, and a significant contributor to the Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG 4 - a two-thirds reduction in child mortality by 2015 (compared to 1990).
Activities planned during the week range from the introduction of newly available vaccines into national immunization programmes to training and workshops for healthcare workers, roundtable discussions with political decision-makers, medical professionals, parents and caregivers, as well as vaccination campaigns.
The 2012 WIW has been synchronized with the 2012 African Vaccination Week (AVW), which has the the theme “An unimmunized child is one too many. Give polio the final push.”
AVW will feature activities highlighting the importance of protecting people from vaccine-preventable diseases; social mobilization and media campaigns; educational and outreach activities; public statements on the benefits of immunization by high ranking officials and
advocacy meetings, among others.
“We are excited by the growing profile of the African Vaccination Week, a region-wide collaborative effort involving all our partners including governments, inter-governmental
and non-governmental organizations and civil society groups,” the statement quoted the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, as saying.
“This year, our focus is to interrupt the transmission of wild polio virus, expand the use of existing vaccines and scale-up the introduction of new ones, in order to accelerate progress towards the fourth Millennium Development Goal,” he said.
The high point of the 2012 AVW observance will be a national launch on 26 April in Accra, Ghana, marking the simultaneous introduction of life-saving pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines into Ghana’s national immunization programme to fight pneumonia and diarrhea diseases.
The Accra event will also serve as the regional launch of the AVW, which coincides with the first-ever WIW.
-0- PANA SEG 24April2012