|© UNICEF/HQ05-0252/ Pirozzi|
|A woman health worker vaccinates a crying toddler being held by her mother, on Kudahuvadhoo Island in Dhaalu Atoll, Maldives.|
NEW YORK, 29 September 2005 – UNICEF’s ‘Progress for Children’ report on immunization, released today, finds that children who are immunized against measles are more likely also to be immunized against other vaccine-preventable diseases – saving millions of children’s lives each year.
The report uses measles mortality reduction as a measure in whether countries are meeting immunization goals. Measles is one of the deadliest killers among vaccine–preventable diseases. But progress has been made in reducing the number of child deaths.
The report confirms that 103 countries and territories had already achieved 90 per cent protection against measles among children under one year of age by 2003. It projects that, of 90 countries that did not achieve this level of coverage:
Immunization is vital and cost-effective
“Immunization is currently preventing an estimated two million deaths among children under five every year,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.
“Immunization is one of the safest and most cost-effective interventions we know. We need to protect the gains we have made in many countries and expand our efforts in others.”
Currently one in four infants worldwide are at risk from vaccine-preventable diseases including haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), whooping cough (pertussis), polio and/or neonatal tetanus, and measles.
At the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children in 2002, the international community adopted the specific target of immunizing at least 90 percent of children under one year of age in all countries by 2010.
|© UNICEF/HQ04-0675/ Pirozzi|
|Shafieva Gulbarg watches as her son, Shahriyor, 5, receives a dose of vitamin A at a clinic in Vose, Tajikistan. During a measles vaccination campaign, vitamin A is also being administered to all children to help strengthen their immune systems.|
Work still to be done
This edition of Progress for Children shows that 103 countries are already protecting 90 per cent of their children against common vaccine-preventable diseases and another 16 are making steady progress.
But an enormous amount of work remains to be done.
Programmes in 74 countries have not adequately sustained routine immunization levels, or have made only slow progress. A majority of these countries are in West and Central Africa, where only 52 per cent of children are routinely vaccinated.
“By improving immunization coverage, bringing on new vaccines when they become available and linking immunization with other interventions, such as distribution of malaria bednets, we can contribute dramatically to the key Millennium Development Goal of improving child survival,” said Ms. Veneman.
‘Progress for Children’ complements the work done with partners like the World Health Organization (WHO). UNICEF and WHO launched a new Global Immunization Vision and Strategy in May that will align immunization programmes with other health sectors.
Among other things, this alignment will allow children being immunized to receive other health interventions at the same time, such as vitamin supplements and medicine to prevent parasitic diseases like worms.
This year, 2005, is pivotal for assessing progress towards global immunization goals.
Maya Dollarhide contributed to this story
UNICEF correspondent Thierry Delvigne-Jean reports on the findings of the ‘Progress for Children’ report on immunization around the world.
Progress for Children