WHO and UNICEF: Urgent Vaccination is Necessary to Protect the Lives of Children

02 February 2024
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UNICEF Srbija/2019/Pančić

Belgrade, 2 February 2024 - On 31 January 2024, the National Institute of Public Health reported 4 pertussis deaths in infants in Serbia, too young to have been fully vaccinated. Health authorities also reported a total of 1,595 confirmed cases of pertussis between 1 January 2023 and 28 January 2024.

Pertussis is an infectious disease typically manifesting with exhausting cough which can affect everyone, but it is most severe in unvaccinated children under one year. About 1 in 20 unvaccinated infants who get the infection, develop a severe complication that can cause death.  Adolescents and adults can get the infection too, but the clinical manifestation among them may be less severe and thus go undiagnosed and untreated, which contributes to bacteria circulation in the population.

Severe pertussis is preventable with a safe and effective vaccine that is available worldwide since 1950s and has been part of routine national immunization programmes since 1974. It is critical for all infants to get this primary series of pertussis-combined vaccine (in Serbia given as part of the pentavalent vaccine) for a total of three shots by the first 6 months of life, so they get protected when they are most vulnerable. Booster pertussis vaccine doses in the second year of life and before school entry are important to consolidate immunity and prevent the spread of pertussis in the community.

WHO and UNICEF will support public health authorities to continue strengthen disease surveillance and reach every child in Serbia, with timely and life-saving vaccines.

Vaccines save lives. Do not delay. Every dose counts.

Media contacts

Jadranka Milanovic
Communication Officer
Tel: + 381 11 3602 104
Tel: +381 63 336 283


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