Vaccination protects children against preventable diseases such as diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, polio, tetanus and rotavirus, among others. According to World Health Organization (WHO), vaccination prevents 2 to 3 million infant deaths globally every year.
However, WHO says that around 21.8 million infants worldwide still miss out on basic vaccination, out of which, 9 million infants, more than one-third, live in WHO's South-East Asia Region: India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Thailand, Korea and Timor-Leste. About 40 million children are born in this region every year, but only 75% of them get immunization against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus.
AdvertisementDr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, on World Immunization Week 2015 (April 24 -30) said that these grim statistics emphasize the need to strengthen our efforts to protect children with complete immunization.
"We must close these immunization gaps. The tactics from major public health wins, especially the polio eradication program, must be adopted to ensure equity with routine immunization vaccines," she said.
She asked South Asian Countries to take measures to increase vaccination coverage by strengthening their health systems. "Vaccine delivery must be linked to other health interventions to increase vaccination coverage. You should address poor management of health systems, inadequate monitoring and supervision of immunization programs, and also low awareness level among parents about immunization," Dr. Singh said.
She notes that collective efforts are necessary between government, partner agencies, health professionals and academia, civil society, private sector and media. "Vaccination is a shared responsibility, and also a cost-effective health intervention. The collective effort should be steered by strong political will backed with resources. Ensuring complete vaccination is the only way to prevent unnecessary deaths from preventable diseases," she added.
There are still too many cases where pregnant mothers and infants are not given tetanus shots. WHO aims to reduce this number substantially from the South-East Asia region by the end of 2015. In fact, the goal is to eliminate measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) by 2020.
In the polio eradication program, WHO plans to increase polio immunization coverage to more than 90% at the national level and more than 80% at the district level in all the countries in the Southeast region.
Five Reasons to Vaccinate
- Vaccination can save your child's life. Your child can be protected against more diseases because of the recent advances in immunology.
- Some babies may not be vaccinated due to allergies, weakened immune systems or other medical reasons. To keep them safe, the children who are able to get vaccinated should be immunized fully. This helps prevent the spread of diseases to those who are weak or unhealthy.
- Vaccination is very safe and effective. Vaccines are only approved after a long and careful review by scientists and healthcare professionals. It may cause pain at the site of injection but this is minimal.
- Immunizations can save money. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can develop into chronic illnesses that have no cure, and often require lifelong medication and treatment.
- Immunization protects future generations. Vaccines have eliminated many diseases like smallpox.