World Immunization Week 2014: Let Us Save 1.5 Million Children’s Lives Each Year!

24.04.2014 16:20

About a fifth of all newborns around the world have no access to vaccines preventing leading causes of child mortality and disabilities

The World Immunization Week is marked every year at the end of April in order to raise awareness about the importance of vaccines in saving millions of young lives every year. UNICEF marks it together with partners, governments, and NGOs all around the world.

This year’s theme of the World Immunization Week, “Are you up to date?”, is a direct appeal to parents and young adults to inform themselves about immunization and make sure they and their families are protected with vaccines.

All children have the right to live and to develop healthily. Vaccines protect children for a lifetime fending off fatal diseases and helping them reach their full potential.

According to data of the World Health Organization, every year, immunization prevents an estimated 2-3 million child deaths from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles – diseases that disproportionately affect children.

Figures speak for themselves regarding the benefits of child vaccines: immunization against measles helped prevent nearly 14 million deaths between 2000 and 2012. Maternal and neonatal tetanus has been eliminated from 34 out of 59 high-risk countries since 1999 through vaccination. The world is close to eliminating polio, thanks to a dramatic increase in the number of children being vaccinated. Thanks to a relentless focus on hard-to-reach children, India - previously considered one of the most difficult places to eliminate the disease - was recently certified as polio-free.

Unfortunately, in spite of the substantial progress with child immunization made globally – for example, in 2012, more than 8 out of 10 infants were given three doses of the DTP vaccine, up from 2 out of 10 in 1980 – about 20% of children around the world still do not receive their basic vaccination because of poverty and marginalization. Some 70% of these infants live in just 10 countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Uganda and South Africa.

The human cost of something so life-changing still being unavailable to so many children is striking. About 30% of deaths of children under five can be prevented by vaccines. In 2012 alone, 1.5 million children died from diseases preventable by currently recommended vaccines. Measles alone continues to kill about 330 children a day mainly in Africa and Asia, and recent polio outbreaks in previously polio-free areas remind us that the only way to eradicate polio is by vaccinating every child, in every country and in every community!

Outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough in developed and developing countries remind us that immunization is everybody’s business.

Throughout the World Immunization Week 2014, UNICEF experts from around the world are available to speak about why vaccines work, why 20% of children remain unimmunized worldwide and how we can reach them.

New, tailored approaches designed to vaccinate every child in every community – no matter how remote - are improving results, even in countries with very low coverage. New vaccines against certain forms of pneumonia and diarrhoea – leading causes of death among small children – are protecting more children in more countries than ever before. UNICEF and partners are harnessing solar power, mobile technology and biometrics to make sure that vaccines reach the children that need them, staying at a safe and constant temperature. Prices for some essential childhood vaccines have reached all-time lows, including for newer vaccines against some of the leading causes of childhood death and disability.

Children who do not receive immunization are often the most vulnerable and live in greatest want. That is why they must not be refused access to live-saving vaccines.

The lives and health of children in both richer, and more destitute countries are in the hands of the global community, of all of us together and separately, and our awareness of child immunization is key for their protection!

*Data from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization

For more information:
Jacklin Tzocheva, Communication Officer, UNICEF Bulgaria
Tel.: +359 2 / 96 96 208

UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. 


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