Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Immunization highlights: 2010


WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, and Dr Tachi Yamada, President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Global Health Program join hands with smiling health workers in Ouagadougou
WHO/R. Barry
The introduction of a new meningococcal conjugate vaccine in Burkina Faso was a highlight of the year

2010 was a year of public health challenges stemming from a series of natural disasters. But it was also a year when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed US$ 10 billion over the next 10 years to help research, develop and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest countries and a long-term collaboration culminated in an affordable vaccine to eliminate one of Africa's biggest health problems.

The year began with news of a devastating earthquake in Haiti. WHO spearheaded the health response, working with local authorities, United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners to respond to the emergency. A core activity was the establishment of a surveillance system to detect outbreaks of measles, diphtheria, meningitis and polio. Severe floods devastated large areas of Pakistan where WHO and health partners provided an immediate vaccination response to protect those most at risk.

Global immunization has progressed measurably in recent years with more children being immunized than ever before. Polio cases have been further reduced in the few remaining endemic districts and more children have access to newly available vaccines protecting them against killer diseases such as severe pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhoea. But these gains are precarious. About 23 million infants worldwide are still not being reached by routine immunization services. Measles is making a comeback with more countries, particularly in Africa, facing large outbreaks of the disease.

Immunization can significantly contribute to achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals. With less than four years until the 2015 deadline, countries must further reduce child mortality and that of other risk groups. This can be done by sustaining the gains already made through the use of existing vaccines, and by implementing an integrated approach towards introducing new vaccines with other proven measures such as micronutrient supplements and oral rehydration therapy.

A selection of the most notable immunization achievements and events of 2010 is featured here.