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World Immunization Week 2014

Editorial by Florence Bauer, UNICEF Representative in BiH

European/World Immunization Week every year provides a good opportunity to remind us of the importance of immunization in protecting children against dangerous and often life threatening disease. Every year, vaccines save the lives of 2-3 million children protecting them from diseases such as measles, polio, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. New vaccines, advanced technologies and innovative strategies are helping us protect more children than even before.

However, immunization is also a victim of its success. Given that some diseases have disappeared from several countries thanks to vaccines, most of the people have never seen a child affected by Polio for example. They forget that Polio leads to partial and sometimes fatal paralysis. At the same time, nearly one fifth of the world’s infants still miss out on basic vaccines and some 1.5 million children die each year of vaccine-preventable diseases.

This is when the risk of some of those diseases comes back as it is the case for Polio for example. There are now cases in Syria and there have been new cases in Tajikistan last year. With the Syria crisis and mobility of people the risk exists again.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina we are particularly worried because only 68% of children is fully immunized. When we look just at Polio the coverage is around 80% far away for the recommended 90% rate which means that 1 out of 5 children is unprotected. This rate drops to 14% for Roma children.

BiH is therefore classified (together with Georgia, Romania and Ukraine) as High Risk of for Polio virus transmission due to week surveillance system and low immunization coverage.

UNICEF supports country’s efforts to improve immunization and to define concrete actions to reach the most vulnerable, maintain polio free stats and restore trust in vaccines.

Immunization is probably one of the most efficient and effective public health invention of the last centuries. With a very simple medical act we can protect children against diseases.

Immunization is also a very powerful strategy to improve health in general as immunization programmes can be used to bring other health interventions to the hardest-to-reach families.

Reaching the poorest and most vulnerable children with life-saving vaccines reduces the risk of preventable child deaths and reduce the cost of health treatments. It is also a moral and ethical obligation and UNICEF remains committed to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in protecting all children from vaccine preventable diseases.

 

 

 

 

Svjetska sedmica imunizacije 2014

 


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