24th to 30th April is the World Immunization WeekLet us ensure long life for all
Ranjan K Baruah
All of us have taken vaccines against many diseases. In recent times most of us have taken vaccines against COVID-19 and this is one of largest vaccination drives around the world. Vaccination is a simple, safe, and effective way of protecting individuals against harmful diseases, before one comes into contact with it. It uses one’s body’s natural defenses to build resistance to specific infections and makes your immune system stronger.
Vaccines train our immune system to create antibodies, just as it does when it’s exposed to a disease. However, because vaccines contain only killed or weakened forms of germs like viruses or bacteria, they generally do not cause the disease or put us at risk of its complications but there might be exceptions sometime. WHO is working with countries and partners to improve global vaccination coverage, including through these initiatives adopted by the World Health Assembly in August 2020. Immunization Agenda 2030 sets an ambitious, overarching global vision and strategy for vaccines and immunization for the decade 2021–2030. It was co-created with thousands of contributions from countries and organizations around the world. It draws on lessons from the past decade and acknowledges continuing and new challenges posed by infectious diseases (e.g. Ebola, Covid).
The strategy has been designed to respond to the interests of every country and intends to inspire and align the activities of all towards achieving a world where everyone, everywhere fully benefits from vaccines for good health and well-being. In 2020, the World Health Assembly adopted the global strategy towards eliminating cervical cancer. In this strategy, the first of the 3 pillars requires the introduction of the HPV vaccine in all countries and has set a target of reaching 90% coverage. To generate awareness World Immunization Week (WIW) is observed around the world from 24 April to 30 April. WIW aims to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. The ultimate goal of WIW is for more people–and their communities–to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
WHO works with countries across the globe to raise awareness of the value of vaccines and immunization and ensures that governments obtain the necessary guidance and technical support to implement high-quality immunization programmes. The ultimate goal of WIW is for more people––to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. This year’s focus is on ‘long life for all’. As everyone deserves a chance at a fulfilling life so a long life is an ambition where one is free to pursue happiness. We are aware that vaccines have been indiscriminately saving lives since 1796. The first Smallpox immunization was a fight back against disease and it gave everyone a chance. From the practice of “ variolation ” in the 15th century to today’s mRNA vaccines, immunization has a long history.
Immunization is a global health success story, saving millions of lives every year. We now have vaccines to prevent more than 20 life-threatening diseases, helping people of all ages live longer, healthier lives. Immunization currently prevents 3.5-5 million deaths every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles.
Immunization is a key component of primary health care and an indisputable human right. It’s also one of the best health investments money can buy. Being vaccinated does not mean that we can throw caution to the wind and put ourselves and others at risk, particularly because research is still ongoing into how much vaccines protect not only against disease but also against infection and transmission.
(With direct inputs from WHO publication)