Joint Statement: European Immunisation Week, 21-27 April 2012
As in previous years, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be taking an active part in the celebration of the European Immunisation Week (EIW) from 21 to 27 April 2012, thus joining the initiative of the World Health Organisation and all European countries with the aim of increasing awareness of the need and right of every child to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Under the slogan “Prevent. Protect. Immunise”, a series of health-promotion activities will be held with the aim of informing the general public, especially parents, about the importance of vaccinating every child.
The aim of the aforementioned activities is to stress the importance of immunisation and reduce the negative impact of the anti-vaccination movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose unfounded and scientifically unsupported accusations against those involved in the immunisation process have resulted in the decreasing rate of vaccinated children in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which poses a potential threat in case of an outbreak, whose probability is increased by population mobility.
Immunisation is a very important and safe way to prevent ten infectious diseases that can cause disability and mortality. According to WHO estimates, each year immunisation saves over 3 million lives worldwide, and millions are saved from diseases and lifelong disabilities.
Unfortunately, these diseases continue to be the cause of death and suffering to this day – measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), whooping cough and neonatal tetanus are still among the leading causes of child deaths in the world. According to the WHO, each year 10.6 million children die before age of five, of this number 1.4 million die from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Even though the region of Europe has the lowest incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases, these diseases continue to account for 32.000 unnecessary child deaths every year. The largest polio epidemic occurred in 2010 in the region of Europe, and 11 countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, are still at high risk of introduction of polio virus into the country. Similarly, a measles outbreak that began in 2010 in Europe has reached a figure of 70,000 cases and thus upset the regional goal of elimination.
It is therefore necessary to increase immunisation percentage and vaccination coverage and raise awareness about the importance of immunisation and thus prevent serious infectious diseases that can have a permanent impact on the health and threaten the lives of children. This year’s slogan – Prevention. Protection. Immunisation – will contribute to the fulfilment of this objective throughout the Region.
The task of the “European Immunisation Week” initiative is precisely that – to reduce the number of unvaccinated children and raise awareness about the need and right of every child to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year, 53 countries in the WHO European Region are organising a number of activities to strengthen political, professional and public support for better and more comprehensive immunisation programmes for children in Europe. This emphasises the Region’s commitment to raising awareness about immunisation and spreading the central message of European Immunisation Week: “Prevent. Protect. Immunise.”
Bearing this in mind, the Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Federal Ministry of Health, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the Republic of Srpska, and Department of Health and Other Services of the Brčko District note that vaccination can prevent the aforementioned diseases, most of which can cause serious complications, as well as some other diseases. The health authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina remain firmly committed to achieving the global and European objectives of eradicating polio and measles and call on parents to protect their families from all vaccine-preventable diseases by having their children immunised in accordance with the immunisation schedule in Bosnia and Herzegovina.