National programmes and systems
Forty years ago, in May 1974, the 27th World Health Assembly resolved to build on the success of the smallpox eradication programme and established the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) to ensure that all children, in all countries, benefited from life-saving vaccine.
The EPI launched at that time recommended the use of vaccines to protect against six diseases: tuberculosis (BCG), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTP vaccine), measles and poliomyelitis.
Thanks to the progress accomplished by countries, immunization is today one of the safest, most cost-effective, and powerful means of preventing deaths and improving lives. Over the years, all countries of the world have incorporated an increasingly broad immunization agenda in their public health interventions. Immunization programmes are now routinely reaching over 80 percent of children under one year of age.
The continued discovery, research and development of new and improved vaccines has made immunization even more effective in combating major causes of childhood illness and death. Indeed, the number of vaccines available today to protect infants, children and also now adolescents and adults against infectious diseases has increased substantially.
The push for universal childhood immunization in the 1980s, the last stages of the polio eradication effort and the intensified efforts launched in all regions to introduce new vaccines, eliminate measles and rubella, eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus have acted as a catalyst to bring other health services to previously unreached children.
The public and private sectors are entering a new era of cooperation where the contribution of all partners is important.