Mr Palm’s remarks during the sub-regional immunization meeting on 28 April 2011
Dear Participants from the region and Albania,
Protection through immunization is a basic human right. It is not always accessible to all. Albania had made significant progress in Polio eradication; measles control activities; improved quality of immunization services; high coverage; introduction of new vaccines. But we always should remind ourselves not to take immunization achievements for granted. National and local authorities must continue their commitment by providing safe effective and affordable immunization services; trust should be built and maintained with the community to ensure timely immunization of children based on the national schedule. A solid communication strategy is key.
The challenge is to reach the last 5-10% most vulnerable children. We often tend to think that reaching herd immunity – meaning 80 or perhaps 90 per cent of population - is good enough. It is not good enough. Behind each preventable child death, behind each child not in school, behind each malnourished child lies a story of inequity and discrimination. Often the children from the Roma community are left out from these lifesaving interventions because of socio economic conditions, mobility of their parents, or low rates of birth registration.
But immunization, if organized properly, has proven to be able to reach the poorest children. Immunization is among the most cost effective measures for preventing diseases that kill the poorest children - those that are more likely to get sick. And it is a good vehicle to provide other child health related interventions. The way immunization services are delivered, and the trust that is normally built among the population should be an excellent model for other child health related interventions.
Immunization services – among many health interventions, are the closest to achieve universal coverage; it is one of the most equitable interventions. The most recent data of the Demographic and Health Survey indicate, for instance,
In contrast, ante-natal care is 82 and 56 per cent respectively for urban and rural populations. Or if we review malnutrition: 28 per cent in mountainous areas compared to the national average of 19 per cent. Differences are much higher. We must be able to learn from the achievements in immunization services, and apply the lessons to other health interventions.
Finally, while immunization remains at the centre of UNICEF’s global child survival strategy, the role UNICEF has been shifting in Albania – and presumably many other countries in this region or sub-region. We moved from support to the entire immunization system in a country, to the facilitation of procurement of vaccines on behalf of the government, and now to help to reach the last 10% with integrated services in health, education, social protection. These sectors have to work closely together, to really make a difference for the poorest and most disadvantaged members of society.
I wish you success for this workshop.