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World Immunisation Week (24-30 April): Targets 2015 are off track

WHO warned this week that progress towards global vaccination targets for 2015 is far off track with 1 in 5 children still missing out on life-saving immunisation that could avert 1.5 million deaths each year from preventable diseases.

Immunisation is one of the most effective public health interventions for protecting from vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs).

In 2012, all World Health Organization (WHO) member states at the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), a commitment to ensure that no one misses out on vital immunisation. Countries are aiming to achieve vaccination coverage of ≥90% nationally and ≥80% in every district by 2020. However, progress is far off track with an estimated 21.8 million infants worldwide still missing out on routine life-saving immunisations.  An independent assessment report of GVAP progress concludes that the situation is alarming. The GVAP set six key immunisation targets with deadlines at the end of 2014 or 2015. Only one of these six is on track to be achieved. Some have been missed multiple times before.

Nevertheless, there is reason for hope. There has been success in introducing new vaccines, and positive achievements in some countries. Major change is possible. The GVAP was created to end the inequity in vaccination worldwide and, hence, to save millions of lives. The WHO estimates that today immunisations prevent between 2 and 3 million deaths annually and protect many more people from illness and disability.

The WHO is working with countries and partners towards closing the immunisation gap. The GVAP recommends three key steps in achieving this goal.

-        Integrated immunisation with other health services

-        Strengthening health systems so that vaccines continue to be given even in times of crisis; and

-        Ensuring that everyone can access vaccines and afford to pay for them.

Other critical operational needs to ensure wider vaccination and delivery on the ground include training more health workers, skilled managers and supportive supervision, finding ways to simplify vaccination procedures in the field and increasing awareness and demand for immunisation by communities.

Pharmacists can fulfil a significant role in the process of immunisation. In fact, they are already doing so in some countries such as Australia, Portugal, the United States and Canada.  Consumers have trust and confidence in the capabilities of their local pharmacists. According to a recent national survey conducted in Canada, 88% of participants stated that they trust their pharmacist to provide advice on vaccination and 79% said they would consider getting a flu shot or other vaccines from pharmacists. Another report published by the C.D. Howe Institute on improving vaccination policy in Canada suggests that further expanding pharmacists’ scope of practice to administer vaccines could help reduce the cost and barriers that make it difficult to access immunisation services. Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers and are in an ideal position to provide immunisation services. Pharmacists were also drafted into administering measles vaccine in the US during the outbreak last year in Ohio.

This week is World Immunisation Week and the theme is “close the immunisation gap”. The aim of this week is to raise public awareness of how immunisation saves lives, encouraging people everywhere to get vaccinate.

 

Read more about immunisation week on the WHO website.