|Vaccination Week in the Americas seeks to protect 44 million people in the region|
Regional initiative celebrates its 10th year, while more than 180 countries and territories join in the first World Immunization WeekWashington, D.C., 19 April 2012 — With the goal of vaccinating some 44 million people, 45 countries and territories of the Americas are set to participate in the 10th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas as well as the first-ever World Immunization Week, both on April 21 to 28.
More than 365 million people of all ages have been vaccinated during the past nine years in campaigns carried out within the framework of Vaccination Week in the Americas. This year, the campaign’s slogan is “For you, for me, for everyone: Get vaccinated.”
The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has supported Vaccination Week in the Americas since 2003, when it was first launched. The initiative’s success has provided inspiration for other regions of the world, which this year have joined together for the first World Immunization Week.
“Vaccination Week in the Americas is an extraordinary achievement that has significantly advanced immunization in our region,” said PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago. “Now the whole world is joining the effort to expand and protect the achievements of vaccination.”
The countries of the Americas have been world leaders in the elimination and reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases. The region was the first to eradicate smallpox (in 1971) and to eliminate polio (in 1991). The last endemic case of measles in the Americas was reported in 2002, and the last endemic case of rubella in 2009. Nearly all countries have eliminated neonatal tetanus as a public health problem. And diseases including diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough have been significantly reduced thanks to vaccination coverage averaging 93% in children under 1.
Despite such successes, many children in the Americas have not completed their vaccination schedules, and hard-to-reach populations continue to have lower rates of vaccination coverage. Vaccination Week in the Americas was launched to close these gaps and protect the region’s hard-won achievements.
Immunization is one of the most cost-effective and successful tools in public health, and prevents an estimated 2–3 million deaths each year around the world.
This year, countries and territories will deploy vaccines against a wide range of diseases, including polio, measles, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, neonatal tetanus, influenza and yellow fever, among others. All vaccines have been prequalified by WHO to guarantee their quality and safety.
Health workers, volunteers and health authorities are gearing up to participate in what has become the region’s largest multi-country health event. A number of celebrities are supporting this year’s effort, including Chilean TV host Don Francisco and Venezuelan singer Ricardo Montaner, both PAHO Champions of Health. Other celebrities promoting this year’s event include Cuban-American actor William Levy, Colombian singer Juanes, Spanish dancer Joaquín Cortés, and Venezuelan singer Carlos Baute.
Vaccination Week in the Americas helps strengthen national immunization programs in PAHO/WHO member countries and strives to reach groups that otherwise have limited access to regular health services, including people living in peri-urban, rural and border areas as well as indigenous communities.
Following launching activities during last week’s Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, countries throughout the hemisphere will hold similar launches starting April 21. Haiti will be the site of the first of these activities, as it was 10 years ago when the first Vaccination Week in the Americas was launched. Other launches will be held on April 27 in Las Palmas, on the triple border of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; and on May 4 in Barbados, for the Caribbean subregion.
Globally, more than 180 countries and territories are set to participate in the first World Immunization Week, whose slogan is “Protect your world: get vaccinated.” Europe will emphasize the importance of measles vaccination. Southeast Asian countries will carry out their own vaccination week for the first time this year. The Eastern Mediterranean will use the slogan “reaching every community.” Africa will emphasize polio vaccination, with the slogan “An unimmunized child is one too many. Give polio the final push." Thirty-one countries in the Western Pacific are planning to participate in World Immunization Week.
Other international organizations supporting Vaccination Week in the Americas include the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, the Canadian International Development Agency, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the GAVI Alliance, the United Nations Development Program, the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Ibero-American General Secretariat, among others.
PAHO, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Achievements of immunization in the Americas
Vaccination coverage in the Americas, 2010 (WHO/UNICEF estimates)
Vaccines are biological agents that, when applied to healthy people, provoke an immune response (antibodies). This protects them during future contacts with the infectious agents against which they have been vaccinated, preventing infection or disease.
Vaccines are among humanity’s most beneficial public health measures, preventing diseases that used to cause epidemics and death. Vaccines protect not only vaccinated people but also others in their environment who have not been vaccinated and remain susceptible.
Vaccines are applied through injection or, less frequently, orally (polio, rotavirus). Many vaccines require more than one dose to confer or maintain protection over time.
To facilitate the correct use of vaccines, all countries have childhood immunization schedules that specify which vaccines are to be given in what doses and at what age. To reduce the number of injections, some vaccines are given in combination (e.g., the pentavalent vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b).