Immunization or “the triumph of modern medicine”
According to preliminary data from the World Health Organization, measles increased by around 300 percent globally in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period last year, with a considerable increase in all regions of the world. world.
The situation points to a widespread recurrence after years of hard-won progress… A stain on what, despite everything, continues to be “a success story in Public Health”, as the WHO has wanted to highlight these last days of April, when World Immunization Week is celebrated every year.
- Today, reminds the WHO, 85 percent of children worldwide receive essential vaccines to save lives, protecting them and their communities not only against measles but also against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and polio.
- This level of protection stems from a strong global push to increase access and affordability of vaccines, with initiatives such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Measles and Rubella Initiative.
The impact has been the same in these and in many other diseases. In others it is yet to come. On the horizon, new vaccines will protect against some of the most dangerous known pathogens. The Ebola vaccine has already played a critical role in controlling the spread of the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while the world’s first malaria vaccine is being tested in the immunization programs of three African countries.
Despite evidence supporting health gains from immunization strategies, recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases highlight persistent gaps in health systems. In recent years, global immunization rates have stagnated.
The 85 percent coverage of children means that approximately 116 million children receive their vaccines each year, but also that there are some 20 million – the majority in countries of extreme poverty – who are not receiving them.
- But inequalities in access are not unique to these countries. They occur regardless of the income level of the states, although in those with fewer access barriers, the anti-vaccine trend continues to be the one that conditions immunization rates.
- Advancing access in the poorest countries and promoting information in those with higher incomes is a double strategy that the WHO recalls again during World Immunization Week 2019, whose objective is to promote vaccination and raise awareness of the role of this method of immunization to prevent and kill diseases in people of all ages.
- This will require, adds the WHO, comprehensive strategies and work to promote the benefits of vaccines throughout the person’s life, involving all health professionals.
In line with the WHO, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has warned that some vaccine-preventable diseases are returning to Europe, mainly affecting children. For this reason, they also call for stopping anti-vaccine movements, one of the great threats against public health.
In this sense, they also urge society to follow the vaccination schedules in order not to put the lives of both individual people and those around them at risk.
In order to highlight the achievements made with vaccination, the EMA points out that thanks to vaccination smallpox has been eradicated and polio reduced by 99 percent around the world, that between 2000 and 2017 vaccination against measles has prevented more than 21 million deaths or that immunization against the human papilloma virus prevents 90 percent of cervical and uterine cancers from developing.