One of my earliest childhood memories was the painful pin-prick in the arm when getting a vaccination. I didn’t know how lucky I was! This week is the first ever World Immunization Week—an international event created to raise awareness about the importance of immunization. Besides the protection that immunization gives against childhood and maternal illnesses, it is also important to vaccinate during an emergency: like a war, a natural disaster, or a refugee crisis. UNICEF is the world’s largest buyer of vaccines for the world’s poorest countries. In 2010, UNICEF supplied 2.5 billion doses of vaccines to 99 countries, and reached 58% of the world’s children.
Children receive measles shots during a national measles campaign outside a vaccination center in Mitundu township in Linlongwe distric in Malawi. © UNICEF /MLWB2010-121/Shehzad Noorani
Here are some quick vaccination facts:
- Immunization prevents 2 - 3 million deaths a year from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps and rubella.
- But still, an estimated 1.7 million children died from vaccine-preventable diseases in 2008 before reaching their fifth birthday.
- And about 19.3 million infants did not receive the basic vaccine against diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis in 2010.
- The nearly complete eradication of Polio is one of the great success stories of immunization. Due to polio eradication efforts, over 8 million people are walking today who would otherwise be paralyzed, and the incidence of polio has declined by 99.8%! Completely eradicating polio will save an estimated $50 billion by 2035, most of it in developing countries.
It’s pretty clear from the facts above what a large part immunization plays in the effort to keep children from dying from preventable causes. If you’d like to be a part of this first ever World Immunization Week, you can help raise awareness by sharing this post with others.