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Are your children up to date? Immunisation Saves Lives

© UNICEF Pacific/Pirozzi
MCH ward at the Port Vila Central Hospital where UNICEF provides vaccines, basic drugs and medical supplies.

SUVA, 24 April 2014 – Vaccination immunises children against killer childhood diseases and is perhaps one of the most cost-effective health interventions. Widespread coverage by Pacific immunisation programmes is a significant reason why deaths to children under the age of five have dramatically declined in the Pacific countries and territories. For old and young alike, immunization is the greatest barrier against preventable diseases like diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, rubella, pneumococcal disease, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, tetanus and yellow fever.

Polio has been contained, though it still exists in a few countries and so we must remain vigilant everywhere. Great progress has been made against neonatal and maternal tetanus --it is nearly eliminated! There have been no outbreaks of major vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and rubella.

Pacific Islanders have every reason to feel proud of these accomplishments. But Dr Karen Allen, Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund in the Pacific, warns, “We should feel happy but not be complacent for three reasons. First, children keep getting born! And everyone needs to be vaccinated. Second, there are still too many children who are not fully vaccinated and not only are they at risk, but they tend to be in groups who are susceptible to an outbreak. Third, there are countries where not all of the recommended vaccines have been introduced, or they have been introduced but are not reaching all children.”

Ironically, grandparents who remember disease outbreaks in the past may understand better than younger parents how important vaccination is. For many people, getting children vaccinated means a long walk or ride to a health centre; perhaps having to take the day off work. Other parents complain that after a vaccination children may be a bit feverish or cry. These symptoms pass. The diseases kill and the risks are very real.

Other challenges include the completion, maintenance and sustaining of cold chain systems to keep vaccines useable, and support to Ministries of Health and Medical Services to extend coverage of the newer vaccines against rotavirus and pneumonia.

Immunization, is an essential health intervention that saves at least two to three million lives of children under five each year. In the Pacific, there is an under one year old population of over 65,000 children spread across the 14 island countries.

Working with our Government counterparts and partners, UNICEF is proud to highlight some of the Pacific achievements thanks to our immunisation programmes:
· Overall reduction in child illness and death
· Guaranteed availability of vaccines and supplies in the Pacific with little or no stock outs experienced

· Enhanced cold chain capacity for ensuring vaccines quality and potency from manufacturer to the children

· New vaccines introduced in the region such as Rotavirus vaccines to prevent against diarrhoea and Pneumococcal (PCV) to protect against pneumonia which are two major culprits in the region for under-five illness and death

· Disruption of Polio spreading in the region since the year 2000, potential tetanus elimination and measles control

Dr. Allen said “As we celebrate World Immunisation Week, we want to ensure we reach every last child and improve national immunisation programmes. UNICEF challenges parents, communities and governments to the question and theme of this year’s World Immunisation Week, Are you up to date?”

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

For further information, please contact:

Donna Hoerder, Tel: +679 3236 100



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