World Immunization Week (24-30 April 2020): #VaccinesWork for All

World Immunization Week is celebrated each year from 24 to 30 April. The theme this year is #VaccinesWork for All and the campaign will focus on how vaccines – and the people who develop, deliver and receive them – are heroes by working to protect the health of everyone, everywhere.

Background Information:

Every year, millions of lives are saved thanks to immunization and it is recognized widely as one of the most successful and cost effective health interventions. However, nearly 20 million children are still unvaccinated and under-vaccinated worldwide.

The main goal of the campaign is to urge greater engagement around immunization globally and the importance of vaccination in improving health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere throughout life.

As part of the 2020 campaign, WHO and partners aim to:

  • Demonstrate the value of vaccines for the health of children, communities and the world.
  • Show how routine immunization is the foundation for strong, resilient health systems and universal health coverage.
  • Highlight the need to build on immunization progress while addressing gaps, including through increased investment in vaccines and immunization.

Key messages:

At all ages, vaccines save lives and keep us safe

Vaccines protect children across communities and countries and prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Responding to outbreak after outbreak is expensive, ineffective and costs lives. The only sustainable response is prevention ─ by ensuring that everyone is vaccinated, at the right time, with the right vaccines through the course of their lives.

While most children today are being vaccinated, far too many are left behind 

Unacceptably, it’s often those who are most at risk –

  • the poorest,
  • the most marginalized,
  • those touched by conflict or forced from their homes

who are persistently missed. If these children do get sick, they are at risk of the severest health consequences, and least likely to access lifesaving treatment and care.

2020 is the Year of the Nurses and Midwives

For health workers, every checkup is an opportunity to check in on vaccination for people of all ages: children, youth, adults and older people

Everyone can be a vaccine champion

Talk to people about the benefits of vaccines. Vaccines save lives, help children learn and grow and prevent serious illness and disability.

Know the facts about vaccines.

  • Vaccines defend us against deadly diseases. They do this by working with our body’s natural defenses to stop us from getting sick. It is a safe and clever way to produce a protective response, helping to keep us healthy, safe and strong.
  • Two key reasons to get vaccinated are to protect ourselves and to protect those around us. Not everyone can be vaccinated ─ including infants who are too young to be vaccinated, older people who are at risk of serious diseases and those who are seriously ill. They depend on others getting vaccinated to ensure they are also protected through vaccines.
  • All the ingredients in a vaccine help ensure they are safe and effective for you and your family. Vaccine ingredients can look unfamiliar when listed on a label but they occur naturally in the human body, the natural environment and the foods we eat.
  • It is important to get the vaccines you need – on time, every time. Don’t wait until you are exposed to a serious illness – like during an outbreak. There may not be enough time to receive all the vaccine doses needed to keep you safe from the disease.

Immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Due to the global circulation of the virus causing COVID-19 and the current pandemic, there is risk of disruption to routine immunization activities due to both COVID-19 related burden on the health system and decreased demand for vaccination because of physical distancing requirements or community reluctance. Disruption of immunization services, even for brief periods, will result in increased numbers of susceptible individuals and raise the likelihood of outbreak-prone vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) such as measles.

Such VPD outbreaks may result in increased morbidity and mortality predominantly in young infants and other vulnerable groups, which can cause greater burden on health systems already strained by the COVID-19 response. The high potential for VPD outbreaks makes it imperative for countries to maintain continuity of immunization services wherever services can be conducted under safe conditions.

Guiding Principles:

VPD surveillance should be maintained and reinforced to enable early detection and management of VPD cases, and where feasible, contribute to surveillance of COVID-19.

If provision of immunization services is negatively impacted by COVID-19, countries will need to design strategies for catch-up vaccination for the period post COVID-19 outbreak and make plans which anticipate a gradual recovery. Implementation of catch-up will require strategies to track and follow-up with individuals who missed vaccinations, assess immunity gaps, and re-establish community demand. Innovation and creativity will be required.

Based on the current understanding of transmission of the COVID-19 virus and recommendations for physical distancing, mass vaccination campaigns should be temporarily suspended. Countries should monitor and re-evaluate at regular intervals the necessity for delaying mass vaccination campaigns.

Where feasible, influenza vaccination of health workers, older adults, and pregnant women is advised.

Considerations for Routine immunization:

Where health system capacity is intact and essential health services are operational (e.g., adequate human resources, adequate vaccine supply), fixed site immunization services and VPD surveillance should be executed while maintaining physical distancing measures and appropriate infection control precautions, equipped with the
necessary supplies for those precautions.

Where the provision of limited services is feasible, immunization of vulnerable populations at increased risk of morbidity and mortality due to VPDs should be prioritized for vaccination against outbreak-prone diseases such as measles, polio, diphtheria and yellow fever.

Useful Links:

Link to the related WHO news release:

https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2020/04/24/default-calendar/world-immunization-week-2020

Link to WHO page containing fact sheets on immunization, Vaccine Preventable Diseases:

https://www.who.int/immunization/newsroom/factsheets/en/

Link to WHO technical guidance on maintaining essential health services and systems during the COVID-19 pandemic:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance/maintaining-essential-health-services-and-systems

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