Growing Country Commitment To Immunization
To highlight the importance of keeping up immunization, particularly among vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups, 25 countries across the WHO European Region will mark European Immunization Week on 16-22 April 2007.
The participating countries - nearly three times as many as before and representing over half the Region's population - will promote immunization through a range of activities.
Why immunization matters
The dramatic decrease in disease outbreaks in recent years has made many contagious diseases a thing of the past for many people in the WHO European Region. Immunization risks falling victim to its own success, and thus losing priority.
Every year, however, vaccine-preventable diseases kill 1.4 million children aged under 5 years worldwide. In the WHO European Region, more than half a million children remain unimmunized and thus unprotected from these diseases. For example, almost 55 500 measles cases were reported in the Region in 2006. Countries in the Region must continuously fight large measles outbreaks, which easily spread across borders. In addition, the re-emergence of diseases eliminated from the Region is a permanent concern. The experts who monitor the European Region's polio-free status recently expressed strong concern about the increasing risk of poliomyelitis importation from other areas.
"After almost a decade with just a few cases of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, people no longer feel at risk. They forget that, if you do not keep up immunization, dangerous diseases such as measles and polio will return. People, especially parents, need to remember why immunization is important," explains Dr Rodica Costinea, European Immunization Week Coordinator in Romania.
"In South Tyrol, anti-vaccination groups are very successful in communicating to parents and even to health professionals. Immunization Week provides an opportunity to discuss this critical issue with our political decision-makers," says Dr Giulia Morosetti, European Immunization Week Coordinator in South Tyrol, Italy.
Countries from all corners of the Region have acknowledged the need to provide accurate and balanced information, and are joining forces to promote evidence-based information explaining the risks of disease and the benefits of immunization. Convinced that every child deserves a healthy start in life, they are planning promotional activities, primarily to reach vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups.