World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 22 million infants across the globe still miss out the basic vaccines like diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and tetanus. Out of which, nine million infants live in the Southeast Asian region.
India is one of the countries with less than 80% immunization coverage.
Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO, said, "The situation is so bad that of the 40 million children born in the Southeast Asian region every year, only about 75% get all three doses of diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccines."
Every year, last week of April is marked as the World Immunization Week. This year it is observed from April 24 to 30, with the theme 'Close the immunization gap'.
World Immunization Week aims to raise awareness among people as to how immunization can save many lives. Immunization is important as it helps to prevent up to 3 million deaths globally.
Khetrapal said children miss out measles vaccines even in many urban places. In 2013, 26% of the global measles deaths, almost 38,000 occurred in Southeast Asia region and 27,500 deaths in India alone. These statistics highlights the need to intensify the efforts to protect children with lifesaving vaccines.
Khetrapal emphasized on the collective efforts by government, partner agencies, health professionals, academia, civil society, media, private sector and the community itself to increase immunization coverage.
"We must close these immunization gaps. We must emulate lessons learnt from major public health wins, especially the polio-eradication program, to reach the unreached to ensure equity with routine immunization vaccines," said Khetrapal.