World Immunisation Week: How vaccines shape our world

The World Immunisation Week takes place in the last week of April each year. The timing is no accident. It coincides with the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 7 April, 1948.

The purpose of the week is to highlight collective action to protect people from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination helps protect children, adults and their communities so that they can live happier, healthier lives.

As WHO plays a central role in global health coordination, dedicating World Immunisation Week to this cause reinforces the broader health agenda and highlights the critical importance of vaccines. It is important to remember that vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical invention in history and remain one of the most powerful tools in our fight against deadly diseases.

Here are some facts about global immunisation:

  • In the last 60 years, vaccines have eradicated smallpox and are on track to eradicate polio. Overall, vaccines prevent more than 2.5 million deaths every year. Globally, childhood immunisation prevents about 4 million deaths each year. Despite the fears of some, scientific studies consistently show no link between vaccines and autism.
  • Immunisation is a major contributor to global well-being and one of the most successful public health interventions. It is estimated that immunisation has the potential to prevent more than 50 million deaths between 2021 and 2030.
  • 70.6% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with a staggering 13.57 billion doses administered worldwide. Currently, 5,308 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are still being administered every day.

Despite the success of the COVID-19 vaccination, the pandemic had a negative impact on global immunisation coverage, which had plateaued in the previous decade. The pandemic, along with the associated disruptions and vaccination efforts, put a strain on global health systems in 2020 and 2021. As a result, we see some trends to watch closely:

  • The number of children who received no vaccine at all – known as zero-dose children – improved from 18.1 million in 2021 to 14.3 million in 2022. This is almost back to pre-pandemic level of 12.9 million in 2019.
  • The third dose of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP3) faced challenges in 2021, with coverage at 81%. However, progress was made and coverage recovered to 84% in 2022.
  • The proportion of children receiving a first dose of the measles vaccine increased from 81% in 2021 to 83% in 2022, but was still below the 2019 level of 86%.
  • Global coverage of the first dose of HPV in girls increased from 16% in 2021 to 21% in 2022.
  • Yellow fever vaccine coverage in high risk countries is 48%, well below the recommended 80% coverage.

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References:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations – Our World in Data

Immunization coverage (who.int)

Fast Facts on Global Immunization (cdc.gov)

Authors

Mónica Correia

International Marketing Manager for Life Sciences and Medical Care. Degree in Business Administration with a Masters in Marketing Management and an MBA. Over 20 years' experience in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

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