by Padmini Murthy MD, MPH, FAMWA, FRSPH
Professor/ Global Health Director NYMCSHSP
Global Health Lead, American Medical Women’s Association
This week (April 24-30) we observe World Immunization Week, a public health campaign observed to raise awareness and increase rates of immunization against vaccine preventable diseases globally. The underlying theme is to highlight the collective action across sectors that is needed to promote increased availability and use of vaccines.
The first World Immunization Week was observed in 2012 and was endorsed by the World Health Organization during its general assembly which led to the observation of this public health campaign in 180 countries.
Since the inception of this campaign, every World Immunization Week observed for the past decade has focused on a particular theme:
2012: “Protect Your World: Immunization Saves Lives”
2013: “Protect Your World: Get Vaccinated”
2014: “Immunization for a Healthy Future. Know. Check. Protect.”
2015: “Close the Immunization Gap: Vaccination for All”
2016: “Closing the Immunization Gap: Immunization for All throughout Life”
2017: “Vaccines Work”
2018: “Protected Together: Vaccines Work”
2019: “Protected Together: Vaccines Work”
2020: “Vaccines Work for All”
2021: “Vaccines Bring Us Closer”
2022: “Long Life for All”
It is unfortunate that in 2022, just over 2 years after the beginning of the global pandemic, access and distribution of vaccines across the globe remains a challenge due to a lack of equity (the term I use is vacquity- which refers to vaccine inequity). Recently, many public health experts have expressed concern that the momentum to fully vaccinate 70% of the world’s population in every country against COVID- 19 by June 2022 will fall short.
Immunization has proven to be one of the most successful interventions of our lifetime, and the eradication of small pox (of which the 40th anniversary was commemorated in 2020) is a prime example of this.
Unfortunately, polio, another infectious disease which has been near eradication remains a concern in certain areas of the world, and the ongoing COVID crisis has created additional barriers for its total eradication. Last year, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reaffirmed its commitment to achieving this goal.
It is alarming to note that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated disruptions have strained health systems, with 23 million children missing out on vaccination in 2020, 3.7 million more than in 2019 and the highest number since 2009.
Immunization plays a vital in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As an important catalyst to reach the targets of SDG 3, immunization can also help meet the targets of SDG 1, 4, 5, 6 and 17 because it has the potential to impact more people than any other health and social service. It is no exaggeration to say that it is a cornerstone for promoting effective primary health care systems and improving the health and well-being of global communities.