There is no doubt, that immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions ever introduced, as affirmed by the World Health Organisation, WHO, which said it prevents between two and three million deaths every year and now protects children not only against diseases for which vaccines have been available for many years, such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio and measles, but also against diseases such as pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhoea, two of the biggest killers of children under five.
Furthermore, adolescents and adults can now as well be protected against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cancers (cervical and liver cancers), thanks to new and sophisticated vaccines.
Indeed, Nigeria recently joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Immunization Week, usually celebrated in the last week of April (24-30) to promote one of the world’s most powerful tools of health – the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against diseases ended exactly a week today. But unfortunately, many Nigerians are still ignorant of the use of vaccines due to inadequate coverage and information.
Explaining the importance of immunisation, WHO said vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide.
Vaccination, according to the organisation has greatly reduced the burden of infectious diseases. Only clean water, also considered to be a basic human right, performs better 1 paradoxically, a vociferous anti vaccine lobby thrives today in spite of the undeniable success of vaccination programmes against formerly dreaded diseases that are now rare in developed countries.
Understandably, vaccine safety gets more public attention than vaccination effectiveness, but independent experts and WHO, have shown that vaccines are far safer than therapeutic medicines.
It also revealed that benefits of immunisation far outweigh the risks. The side effects of immunisation such as fever are mild and will resolve even without treatment. Some people often have the concerns of long-term side effect but it has been shown that these side effects are rare compared to the protection received from immunisation. To address this, it is first important to understand why a woman is resistant to immunisation. Many times it is out of ignorance and proper education. Sometimes it is as a result of cultural and religious factors. Presenting the facts will help to overcome some of these.
It is important to understand that because immunisation has been taken up by so many people, some of those diseases that are covered are no longer affecting others, even those who have not received the vaccination (herd immunity). But if many people stop getting the immunisation, those diseases will come back and the threat for those who are not immunised will increase. So there is the need to encourage everybody to get immunised.
No wonder World Health Organization is calling for renewed collective efforts to get progress on global vaccination targets back on track.
WHO report said that around the world, 1 in 5 children are not receiving routine vaccines that could avert 1.5 million deaths a year from preventable diseases, said the UN public health agency.
According to Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO, assistant director-general for family, women and children’s health, only one of the six global vaccination targets for 2015 is on track, saying World Immunization Week (24th-30th April, 2015) is an opportunity for the world to focus on and push harder towards the goal of ensuring every child, “whoever they are and wherever they live,” receive life-saving vaccination.
“It is critical that the global community now makes a collective and cohesive effort to put progress towards our six targets back on track,” she urges.
According to the press statement obtained from WHO, despite this success, 1 in 5 children are still missing out. In 2012, an estimated 22.6 million infants were not reached with routine immunization services. More than half of these children live in just 3 countries: India, Indonesia and Nigeria. Inadequate supply of vaccines, lack of access to health workers, and insufficient political and financial support, account for a large proportion of people who start but don’t finish national immunization schedules. A lack of knowledge about vaccination, on the other hand, is one of the key reasons why adults consciously choose not to get vaccinated themselves or to vaccinate their children.
In 2013 nearly 22 million infants missed out on the required three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis-containing vaccines (DTP3), many of them living in the world’s poorest countries. WHO is therefore, calling for an end to the unnecessary disability and death caused by failure to vaccinate.
“World Immunization Week creates a focused global platform to reinvigorate our collective efforts to ensure vaccination for every child, whoever they are and wherever they live,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo.
Bustreo recalled that in 2012, all 194 WHO Member States at the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan, GVAP, a commitment to ensure that no one misses out on vital immunization.
However, a recent independent assessment report on GVAP progress rings an alarm bell, warning that vaccines are not being delivered equitably or reliably and that only 1 of the 6 key vaccination targets for 2015 is currently on track – the introduction of under-utilized vaccines.
She revealed many countries worldwide have experienced large measles outbreaks in the past year, threatening efforts to achieve the GVAP target of eliminating measles in 3 WHO Regions by end-2015.
Meanwhile their role is to educate and advice patients on the benefits of immunisation and to identify those who have fears and concerns regarding immunisation and to address them. Sometimes people are not aware of the vaccine they need, so the health care provider has a role in educating their patients about the right vaccines that are available and encouraging them to get those vaccines.
The government is trying to reach the rural areas that were not adequately covered by decentralising immunisation and scaling it down appropriately and the reach has increased. Pneumococcal vaccine uptake particularly among adults, has not been optimal and there is the need to highlight its benefits in reducing the burden of pneumococcal infection.
Meanwhile, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO, Dr Jean- Marie Okwo-Bele said the Organization will work to increase its support to all countries that are lagging behind in meeting immunization targets.
“In May this year, WHO will bring together high-level representatives of 34 countries with routine vaccination (three doses of DTP3) coverage of less than 80% to discuss the challenges faced by countries and to explore solutions to overcome them.
Although many countries are already vaccinating four out of five children with DTP3, a full one-third of countries are still struggling to reach the ‘fifth child’, meaning millions of children remain at risk of illness, disability or death because they are not getting the immunizations they need.
“There is no one centralized approach that can ensure vaccines are delivered and administered to each child. Vaccination plans on the ground need to be adapted not just to countries, but to districts and communities.” Dr Jean- Marie Okwo-Bele stated.

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