The global immunization system is one of the most cost effective health interventions and has proven to be the best buy in global health. Despite extraordinary progress over past decades routine immunization programs for children and adults still face massive challenges, causing far too many children to be left behind.
For over 200 years, vaccines have played a fundamental role in the reduction of death and illness due to infectious diseases. Immunization has proven to be the most effective and well-known system of disease prevention. Timely and complete immunization prevents the catastrophic illness in children under five, mothers and adults. Hundreds of millions of lives have been saved with vaccinations.
Direct and indirect impacts of immunization have the potential of changing lives. GAVI reports show that immunization plays a crucial role in achieving 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is described as one of the most far-reaching global health interventions and has immense contribution to SDG ethos of “leaving no one behind”.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are still nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting vaccinated. Unimmunized or incompletely immunized children face a double jeopardy. It’s one thing that they are not immunized in timely manner, secondly living in poorest countries makes them more vulnerable to risk of death due to lack of access to timely treatment and care.
Vaccination falls short due to myriads of reasons, which can be divided into two big categories:
Earning public trust has become harder due to the fast spread of misinformation and anti-vaccine movements seen in both developing and industrialized countries. Loss of public confidence in a vaccine due to real or spurious links to adverse reactions has hugely impacted immunization activities. Measles is making a comeback in several countries and COVID-19 vaccine misinformation has circulated rapidly, adding to the felt threats.
As global health practitioners, we need to think beyond our training and qualifications and focus on two inborn traits:
Did you know that it is World Immunization Week? Promise yourself to harness your intuition and innovation to improve immunization programs around the world.
Remember “vaccination is what saves you, not the vaccine.”