Immunization week: a major force for child survival

April 2011

Immunization week focuses on saving lives by protecting people against vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, measles, pneumococcal disease, polio, rotavirus and tetanus through immunization. In 2011, for the first time, about 180 countries and territories across the WHO regions of Africa, the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe and the Western Pacific are taking part in simultaneous immunization weeks.

A child holds an immunization record chart
PAHO/D. Spitz

During immunization week, outreach teams visit communities with limited access to regular health services such as those living in remote areas, urban fringes and internally displaced people to administer vaccines. Teams carry out large-scale vaccination campaigns against diseases like measles and polio.

When other health interventions – including vitamin A supplements to boost children's immune systems, provision of deworming medicine, growth monitoring, and distribution of insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria – are combined with vaccines, immunization week becomes a major force for child survival.

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.

Regional and national partners

WHO provides support developing planning and advocacy tools to assist health authorities to effectively prepare and implement relevant health promotion activities. Regional and national partners such as other UN organizations and civil societies support the implementation of the activities. In addition, presidents and prime ministers, first ladies, health ministers, ambassadors and leading personalities also lend their support to this important initiative.

Immunization is successful and effective

A woman receives a vaccine injection
WHO

Immunization is one of the most successful and effective health interventions. Immunization has reduced morbidity and mortality across the world in a safe and cost-effective manner. It is an important investment for all countries. From infants to senior citizens, immunization prevents debilitating illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases. Moreover, the benefits of immunization are increasingly being extended to adolescents and adults, providing protection against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cancers that occur in adulthood.

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