All children, no matter their country or circumstance, have the right to survive and thrive. Immunization is a core component of the human right to health. Immunization saves millions of lives and protects countless children from preventable diseases.
Vaccines, given on the proper schedule, provide the best possible protection for children when they need it the most. Middle- and high-income countries in Europe have a strong immunization tradition and in recent years have introduced new vaccines to protect children from preventable diseases. Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina is at great danger for disease outbreak due to low immunization coverage (68 percent overall and a dismal four percent for Roma children). According to government data, coverage continues to decline, especially for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
Current immunization programs face numerous challenges, including:
- Global changes in vaccine production and availability
- Increasing costs of existing vaccines
- High costs and inadequate supply of new vaccines
- Weak planning for vaccine procurement at the country level
- Growing distrust among parents of the efficacy of vaccines
- Different vaccination schedules, types of vaccinations, and vaccine procurement throughout country
As a result, Bosnia and Herzegovina saw a severe outbreak of measles in 2014 in Central Bosnia Canton with 5048 cases. (Central Bosnia Canton had only 33 percent immunization coverage in 2013.) Moreover, the country is one of four countries in Europe (with Romania, Ukraine, and Georgia) under high risk of poliovirus importation.
Focus should include sustainable procurement solutions and increasing budgets for immunization work, including communication, social mobilization and procurement of cold chain equipment.
UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina supports the country in achieving European immunization targets, particularly to reduce the risk of the poliovirus. UNICEF’s goal is also to help close equity gaps.
Immunization will be much more successful if it is available to all, and in a timely and regular fashion. This drive for access is particularly important for vulnerable and excluded families with young children, such as in Roma communities, and for families caring for children with developmental difficulties.
UNICEF supports the Government’s work to guarantee priority health care and to ensure a sustainable and cost-effective immunization programme, including:
- Continued supply of safe and effective vaccines
- Timely planning and secure funding for vaccine procurement
- Improved quality of service delivery
- Improved parental and health professionals’ understanding of the importance and effectiveness of immunization
- Targeted interventions for all unimmunized children.
In its ongoing support of children in the region, UNICEF activities promote:
- Policy dialogue and training for sustainable immunization financing, budgeting and purchase
- Assessing national vaccine management practices and support
- Government strengthening of planning practices, cold chain, temperature monitoring and logistics
- Developing and implementing the best outreach model to vaccinate hard-to-reach unimmunized children, such as those within the Roma communities
- Awareness-raising with policy makers, service providers, parents, media, community service organizations and the general public on the importance and effectiveness of immunization.