Immunization is a proven and cost-effective public health intervention, saving the lives of millions of children and protecting millions more from illness and disability. Immunization is also a wise financial investment - with every $1 invested in immunization returning an estimated $16 in health-care savings and increased economic productivity. Most countries in Europe and Central Asia have immunization coverage of 95 percent or more for three doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), often seen as the measure of national performance on immunization. However, while most national averages for DTP vaccination may be adequate, the regional average is hovering at around 92 percent, a slight decrease from the previous year, which is not high enough to ensure immunity for everyone. Over 70 percent of the region’s unvaccinated infants are from middle income countries, with Ukraine presenting the lowest coverage rate and the greatest challenge. National averages also mask disparities, with Roma children and those from other ethnic and vulnerable groups, including refugee and migrant children, all lagging behind. Measles outbreaks are a growing problem. Last year there were over 10,000 cases of measles in the region. Despite increased coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine among children (up from 63 percent in 2000 to 93 percent in 2016) more work is urgently needed, as children are not fully protected against measles unless they receive two doses. Currently, second dose coverage is at 88 percent, which does not provide adequate protection. In total, over 500,000 children in the region are still not protected against measles - a life-threatening, but easily preventable disease. There are also concerns about ‘vaccine hesitancy’ – a growing mistrust of immunization among some parents, fuelled by myths and misinformation. Such hesitancy may stem from negative media stories linking a child’s death to immunization without the full facts. It may be influenced by the region’s anti-vaccine movements, which spread anti-immunization messages. Meanwhile, measures to counter vaccine hesitancy and build parental trust in immunization are hampered by a lack of discussion with parents about its importance and the minimal risks. A baby girl receives her vaccination at a clinic in Serbia. A baby girl receives her vaccination at a clinic in Serbia. Donor support for immunization is falling in some countries that still require such support. Elsewhere, the concern is to ensure financial sustainability for immunization programmes once countries ‘graduate’ from the support provided by Gavi (The Vaccine Alliance). Ongoing reforms in some countries are affecting both the structure and financing of immunization programmes. Some countries, challenged by competing priorities at home and inaccessibly priced vaccines on the global market, experienced several vaccine shortages in 2015–2016, sometimes causing critical disruptions of services. These issues are particularly acute in middle-income countries, many of which self-procure vaccines and continue to face significant challenges in achieving financial sustainability of their immunization programmes. Some countries also lack adequate monitoring of vaccine coverage, which is critical to understand and address any gaps. As a result of such challenges, the region faces outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease, such as a polio outbreak in 2015 and an ongoing measles outbreak in Ukraine – a country where conflict and economic recession have depleted stocks of vaccines and vaccine hesitancy is reducing immunization coverage. There is also an ongoing large measles outbreak in Romania, with over 10,000 cases of the diseases and 38 deaths. During the last five years, measles outbreaks have been registered in Georgia (2013), Kazakhstan (2014), Kyrgyzstan (2015), and Tajikistan (2017). Outbreaks in one country can spread rapidly to others, signalling the interdependence and vulnerability of all countries, whatever their stage of economic development.
World Immunization Week 2019
Vaccines act as a shield, protecting children and newborn babies from dangerous diseases and saving up to 3 million lives each year. Yet, there are still nearly 20 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world today. These children are at risk of serious illness, complications, and even death. Many parents want to vaccinate their children, but can’t because they don’t have access to healthcare. But increasingly, some parents are choosing not to. This reluctance often stems from misconceptions about vaccines, or complacency about the likelihood of getting infected. That’s why staying informed about the benefits of vaccines – and the risks of not getting vaccinated – is more important than ever. This World Immunization Week, UNICEF is launching a global campaign to emphasize the power and safety of vaccines among parents and social media users. From 24-30 April, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute US$1 to UNICEF for every like or share of social media posts using the hashtag #VaccinesWork, up to US$1 million, to ensure all children get the life-saving vaccines they need. Help protect children from deadly diseases by telling parents around the world, #VaccinesWork !
What are vaccines? Vaccines are products that are usually given in childhood to protect against serious, often deadly diseases. By stimulating your body’s natural defenses, they prepare your body to fight the disease faster and more effectively. How do vaccines work? Vaccines help your immune system fight infections more efficiently by sparking your immune response to specific diseases. Then, if the virus or bacteria ever invades your body in the future, your immune system will already know how to fight it. Are vaccines safe? Vaccines are very safe. Your child is far more likely to be hurt by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine. All vaccines go through rigorous safety testing, including clinical trials, before they are approved for the public. Countries will only register and distribute vaccines that meet rigorous quality and safety standards. Why should I vaccinate my child? Vaccines save lives. Measles vaccines alone are estimated to have prevented over 21 million deaths between 2000 and 2017. Vaccines will help protect your child against diseases that can cause serious harm or death, especially in people with developing immune systems like infants. It’s important to vaccinate your child. If not, highly contagious diseases such as measles, diphtheria and polio, which were once wiped out in many countries, will come back. Can my baby handle all of these vaccines? Yes. Many parents worry that multiple vaccines will overload their child’s immune system. But children are exposed to hundreds of germs every day. In fact, a common cold or sore throat will put a greater burden on your child’s immune system than vaccines. But these diseases are not present in my community. Do I still need to vaccinate my child? Yes. Although the diseases may be eliminated in your country or region, our increasingly interconnected world means that these diseases could spread from areas where they are still present. What is herd immunity? If enough people in your community are immunized against a certain disease, you can reach something called herd immunity. When this happens, diseases can’t spread easily from person to person because most people are immune. This provides a layer of protection against the disease even for those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants. Herd immunity also prevents outbreaks by making it difficult for the disease to spread. The disease will become more and more rare, sometimes even disappearing entirely from the community. Can a vaccine cause my baby to get sick? Vaccines are extremely safe and serious side effects are rare. Almost all sickness or discomfort after vaccination is minor and temporary, such as a soreness at the injection site or mild fever. These can often be controlled by taking over-the-counter pain medication as advised by a doctor, or applying a cold cloth to the injection site. If parents are concerned, they should contact their doctor or health care provider. Extensive studies and research show that there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. What diseases do vaccines prevent? Vaccines protect your child against serious illnesses like polio, which can cause paralysis; measles, which can cause brain swelling and blindness; and tetanus, which can cause painful muscle contractions and difficulty eating and breathing, especially in newborns. For a list of the most common vaccines and the diseases they prevent, see this list of the most common vaccines and the diseases they prevent . Can I delay the vaccine schedule? One of the best ways you can protect your child is to follow the recommended vaccine schedule in your country. Any time you delay a vaccine, you’re increasing your child’s vulnerability to disease. Can I let my child get the chickenpox instead of getting the vaccine? Although chickenpox is a mild disease that many parents will remember from childhood (the vaccine was introduced in 1995), some children will develop serious cases with complications that can be fatal or cause permanent disabilities. The vaccine eliminates the risk of complications from the disease, and prevents children from infecting their siblings, friends and classmates. What is the recommended vaccine schedule? Immunization schedules vary by country depending on which diseases are most prevalent. You can find an overview of the recommended vaccines and approximate dates from your local health centre, doctor or your government’s Ministry of Health. >> Learn more about immunization >> World Immunization Week
‘RM Child-Health’: safeguarding the health of refugee and migrant children in Europe
More than 1.3 million children have made their way to Europe since 2014, fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in their own countries. They include at least 225,000 children travelling alone – most of them teenage boys – as well as 500,000 children under the age of five. In 2019 alone, almost 32,000 children (8,000 of them unaccompanied or separated) reached Europe via the Mediterranean after perilous journeys from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and many parts of Africa – journeys that have threatened their lives and their health. Many have come from countries with broken health systems, travelling for months (even years) with no access to health care and facing the constant risks of violence and exploitation along the way. Many girls and boys arriving in Europe have missed out on life-saving immunization and have experienced serious distress or even mental health problems. They may be carrying the physical and emotional scars of violence, including sexual abuse. The health of infants and mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding has been put at risk by a lack of pre- and post-natal health services and of support for child nutrition. Two girls wash a pot in the common washing area of the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria, on the island of Lesvos, in Greece. Two girls wash a pot in the common washing area of the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria, on the island of Lesvos, in Greece. Child refugees and migrants also face an increased health risk as a result of crowded and unhygienic living conditions during their journeys and at their destinations. Even upon their arrival in Europe, refugee and migrant children and families often face continued barriers to their health care, such as cultural issues, bureaucracy, and a lack of information in their own language. Southern and South East European countries are at the heart of this challenge, struggling to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children. And now, an already serious problem is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Refugee checks on his son
The Roma are one of Europe’s largest and most disadvantaged minority groups. Of the 10 to 12 million Roma people in Europe, around two-thirds live in central and eastern European countries. While some have escaped from poverty, millions live in slums and lack the basic services they need, from healthcare and education to electricity and clean water. Discrimination against Roma communities is commonplace, fuelling their exclusion. Far from spurring support for their social inclusion, their poverty and poor living conditions often reinforce the stereotyped views of policymakers and the public. And far from receiving the support that is their right, Roma children face discrimination that denies them the essentials for a safe, healthy and educated childhood. Discrimination against Roma children can start early, and have a life-long impact. The problems facing Roma children can start early in life. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, Roma infants are four times more likely than others to be born underweight. They are also less likely to be registered at birth, and many lack the birth certificate that signals their right to a whole range of services. As they grow, Roma children are more likely to be underweight than non-Roma children and less likely to be fully immunized. Few participate in early childhood education. They are less likely than non-Roma children to start or complete primary school, and Roma girls, in particular, are far less likely to attend secondary school. Only 19 per cent of Roma children make it this far in Serbia, compared to 89 per cent of non-Roma children. There are also disparities in literacy rates across 10 countries in the region, with rates of 80 per cent for Roma boys and just under 75 per cent for Roma girls, compared to near universal literacy rates at national level. Roma children are too often segregated into ‘remedial’ classes within regular schools, and are more likely to be in ‘special’ schools – a reflection of schools that are failing to meet their needs, rather than any failure on their part. In Roma communities, child marriage may be perceived as a ‘valid’ way to protect young girls, and as a valued tradition. In reality, such marriages deepen the disparities experienced by girls, and narrow their opportunities in life. In many Balkan countries, half of all Roma women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18, compared to around 10 per cent nationally. Child marriage and school drop-out are closely linked, particularly for girls, and such marriages also expose girls to the dangers of early pregnancy and childbirth, as well as a high risk of domestic violence.
Refugee and migrant children in Europe
People have always migrated to flee from trouble or to find better opportunities. Today, more people are on the move than ever, trying to escape from climate change, poverty and conflict, and aided as never before by digital technologies. Children make up one-third of the world’s population, but almost half of the world’s refugees: nearly 50 million children have migrated or been displaced across borders. We work to prevent the causes that uproot children from their homes While working to safeguard refugee and migrant children in Europe, UNICEF is also working on the ground in their countries of origin to ease the impact of the poverty, lack of education, conflict and insecurity that fuel global refugee and migrant movements. In every country, from Morocco to Afghanistan, and from Nigeria to Iraq, we strive to ensure all children are safe, healthy, educated and protected. This work accelerates and expands when countries descend into crisis. In Syria, for example, UNICEF has been working to ease the impact of the country’s conflict on children since it began in 2011. We are committed to delivering essential services for Syrian families and to prevent Syria's children from becoming a ‘ lost generation ’. We support life-saving areas of health , nutrition , immunization , water and sanitation, as well as education and child protection . We also work in neighbouring countries to support Syrian refugee families and the host communities in which they have settled.