UN: WHO stresses need for immunization for healthy societies

New York, US (PANA) - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday announced
that during World Immunization Week 2016, which begins Sunday, it will be highlighting
recent gains in immunization coverage, and outlining further steps countries can take
to meet global vaccination targets by 2020.

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in a statement, obtained by PANA in
New York, said: "Last year immunization led to some notable wins in the fight against
polio, rubella and maternal and neonatal tetanus."

"But, they were isolated wins. Polio was eliminated in one country, tetanus in three,
and rubella in one geographical region.The challenge now is to make gains like this
the norm," she said.

According to her, immunization averts two to three million deaths annually, however,
an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage

"Today, an estimated 18.7 million infants, which is nearly one in five children
worldwide are still missing routine immunizations for preventable diseases, such
as diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus," she said.

Dr. Chan recalled that, in 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global
Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), a commitment to ensure that no one misses out on
vital immunizations, stating that, despite gains in vaccination coverage in some
regions and countries the past year, global vaccination targets remain off track.

The WHO chief also noted that only one out of six targets is on track.

Meanwhile, WHO disclosed that during the past five years, 86 low- and middle-
income countries have made 128 introductions of the following vaccines:
Hib-containing vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), rotavirus
vaccine, human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV), rubella and inactivated polio

It also said that, the target is to introduce one or more new or under-utilized
vaccines in at least 90 low- and middle-income countries by 2015, and said that
last year reportedly saw some major breakthroughs.

It also said that, India joined Cambodia, Madagascar and Mauritania in
eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus, and they also improved coverage
of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis-containing vaccines (DTP3) to 83 per cent.

"Despite challenges imposed by Ebola, including for routine immunization
coverage, the African Region became one-step closer to being certified
polio-free with the removal of Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries.

"As recently as 2012, the country accounted for more than half of all polio
cases worldwide, and now, only two countries, namely Afghanistan and
Pakistan remain polio endemic," the UN health agency said.

It stated: "Additionally, five years after the introduction of an affordable
conjugate meningitis A vaccine, immunization of more than 230 million
people has led to the control and near elimination of deadly meningitis A
disease in the African 'meningitis belt' that stretches from Senegal to

WHO also said that, new vaccines against dengue, Ebola and malaria
have the potential to be game-changers in immunization in the near

"For example, through a 'ring-vaccination' strategy, the Ebola vaccine is
being given to anyone who has come into contact with a person infected
with Ebola, as well as contacts of theirs.

"And, the new polio vaccination regimen, with the withdrawal of type 2
oral polio vaccine in 155 countries this month, represents a critical step
towards a polio-free world," it noted.

Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and
Children’s Health and Vice-Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Board,
said: "Although the world has seen some achievements in immunization,
global vaccination coverage has stalled the past few years."

"However, far too many opportunities to reach unvaccinated children and
close the immunization gap are still being missed every day," the WHO
official said.

To improve vaccination coverage, WHO called on countries to reach more
children missed by routine delivery systems, especially those living in
countries, districts or areas where less than 80 per cent of them are
receiving vaccines or those living in countries affected by conflicts or

It said more than 60 per cent of children who are unvaccinated live in 10
countries, namely the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India,
Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Uganda and
South Africa.

It further said that, when a child or adult who is unvaccinated or not fully
vaccinated visits a health facility for any reason, their vaccination record
should be checked by healthcare workers and they should be given all
vaccines they are missing.

"However, recent field assessments in American and African Regions
have shown that between 23 and 96 per cent of eligible children who
visited a health facility for vaccination or for medical care, left the health
facility without receiving the vaccine doses they needed," WHO added.

Last year, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization
(SAGE) identified 5 factors to achieving significant results in immunization

They are quality and use of data, community involvement, better access
to immunization services for marginalized and displaced populations
strong health systems access to vaccines in all places at all times and
strengthening the quality and use of data.

The World Health Assembly passed a resolution last year on vaccine
pricing, which called on countries to provide their vaccine prices to

The agency’s database currently contains 1,600 vaccine price records
on almost 50 different types of vaccines from 42 countries, but also
from international buyers such as the procurement platform available
in the WHO Region of the Americas and from the UN Children’s Fund
(UNICEF), making it the largest international vaccine price database.

It said: "Because prices paid for vaccines represent a large share of
countries’ immunization budgets and the prices of new vaccines are
higher than those of traditional vaccines," noting that costs represent
a strong barrier to countries introducing new vaccines.
-0-   PANA  AA  21April2016

21 Abril 2016 21:17:13

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