Health workers, the key to immunization

World Immunization Week
World Immunization Week

World Immunization Week, coordinated by the World Health Organization, takes place from 21-28 April 2013. It aims to recognize the contribution that vaccination has brought to global health in reducing the occurrence of diseases like polio, measles and diphtheria. Across the globe, several activities have been organized including vaccination campaigns, training workshops, round-table discussions, public information campaigns, and more.

Immunization averts between two and three million deaths every year. In recent times, there has been significant progress in the development and delivery of vaccines. Nevertheless, approximately 22 million infants still do not receive routine vaccines and more than 1.5 million children under the age of five continue to die from diseases that could be easily prevented by existing vaccines.

This emergency is not just a problem of a shortage of medicines. As new research published in the journal Vaccine highlighted, there is a need for improved logistics systems and supply chain management, increased support for vulnerable and marginalized groups, and better information. At the same time, it is also essential to overcome complacency about immunization, dispel myths, and improve research.

Health workers could be instrumental in dealing with these challenges. The scale-up of full range of health workers, including community health workers and mid-level cadres, has been internationally recognized as a successful strategy for reducing morbidity and averting mortality in mothers, newborns and children. The Global Health Workforce Alliance believes that health workers, have a true potential to also help closing the immunization gap. This is because they represent the real link between communities and the health system.

World Immunization Week, with its global call to “Protect your world, get vaccinated”, is an opportunity for governments, international organizations, public and private sector agencies, academic institutions, communities and individuals to come together and promote the goal of universal immunization coverage through a skilled, motivated and supported health workforce.