UNICEF devotes considerable priority and resources to immunisation because it is among the most cost-effective public health interventions.
Today's technology allows us to develop and use more and better vaccines to prevent most of the child illness and death due to vaccine preventable diseases. The cost of failing to vaccinate is can be devastating, learding to high disease burden, grave social and economic consequences. Infectious diseases that were once under control can re-emerge. Diseases can spread to countries and continents where they had been eliminated.
The regional average for measles immunisation coverage in children under one year of age as an indicator of Milennium Development Goal 4 of lowering child mortality, has been consistently high in the past several years. It has surpassed the regional target of 95 per cent. However, there are discrepancies between the countries. In addition, a more in-depth analysis of in-country data reveals inequalities by wealth, settlement, gender and mother’s education.
The cost of failing to vaccinate can be devastating. Recent outbreaks of polio reveal weaknesses in routine immunisation.
Accumulation of susceptible populations in time leads to the occurrence of outbreaks like measles and polio, having a considerable impact on the health and well-being of children.
This region is currently confronting an outbreak of polio – a disease that was once eradicated in this part of the world, highlighting weaknesses in routine immunisation. The first importation of wild poliovirus in the European Region since the last case identified in 1998 occurred in Central Asia in April 2010. The resulting outbreak was large, constituting 70 per cent of the global case load at the peak of the epidemic.
The outbreak mostly affected children resulting in death or leaving permanent disabilities that will have an impact on their social development and quality of life in the long term.
UNICEF is working with national governments, WHO, non-governmental organisations, the World Bank, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), and the vaccine industry to strengthen health systems for better vaccine supply, funding, programme management, staff capacity, cold chain, information systems and communications; to achieve and sustain universal, high quality and equitable immunisation services.
UNICEF advocates for the maintenance of immunization as a public health intervention available to all, particularly for the vulnerable and marginalized populations, during the reform of cash-strapped health systems. We help governments to develop and implement national immunisation plans. In addition, we encourage and support governments in their efforts to assume responsibility for the sustainable financing of their national immunisation services.
Updated 28 May, 2011