UNICEF Kosovo joins WHO in celebrating European Immunization Week 2011
Pristhtinë/Priština, 23 April 2011 – WHO and UNICEF Offices in Kosovo, in cooperation with Ministry of Health, will open the European Immunization Week in Kosovo (23 – 30 April 2011).
The week is an annual region-wide initiative aimed at increasing knowledge about the benefits of immunization. This year’s motto, Immunize your child today, give him an healthy tomorrow/, focuses on the need to raise the awareness of parents and caregivers, as well as the broader population, about the importance of immunization in protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases and highlights the critical role that health professional play in the establishment of good immunization practices.
The widespread implementation of immunization programmes in Europe over the past 30 years has led to remarkable achievements such as the eradication of polio since 2002 and the reduction of measles cases in the past decade by more than 90%. However, more needs to be done. Every year an estimated 32.000 children still die of vaccine-preventable diseases in the European Region, with vulnerable and hard-to-reach non-immunized groups more at risk to outbreaks of infectious diseases.
In this context, one of the main goals of the European Immunization Week is to ensure that a strong political support for immunization efforts is reinforced and maintained, so to prevent the re-emergence of highly contagious diseases, causing illness, disability and death, and placing a considerable burden on health care systems.
Improving the health status of children in Kosovo remains one of the top priorities for the MoH, UNICEF, WHO and their partner organisations. Over the past few years the immunization coverage rate in Kosovo has increased to average 95%, however, despite the immunization service being free of charge, inequalities in access to immunization and other health services persist and the coverage rate it is considered lower among children of vulnerable and high-risk groups such as Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities.
‘Every child deserves a healthy start in life and a special focus should be placed on immunization programmes aimed at reaching vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups’, says Johannes Wedenig, UNICEF Head of Office. ‘Immunization is not only an effective intervention to ensure that no child’s life is jeopardized by a vaccine-preventable disease, but it can also be used as a strategy to help reduce inequalities in the delivery of primary health care’.
To mark this year’s European Immunization Week, children from the Club of Young Ambassadors of Kosovo have been invited and given an opportunity to meet with Minister of Health, Prof. Dr. . Ferid Agani, representatives of WHO, UNICEF and other relevant stakeholders from the health sector and to raise their questions on immunization and the health status of children in Kosovo.
Vaccines are free of charge and are conducted in health facilities.