World Immunization Week: Vaccines save lives
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
In May 2012, 194 countries endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan at the World Health Assembly. Today, the WHO reports that their goal of eliminating such diseases as measles, rubella, and maternal and neonatal tetanus by 2020 is behind schedule.
The WHO estimates that between 2 and 3 million deaths are prevented every year thanks to vaccination. On the other hand, around 1.5 deaths could be prevented with an increase in the percentage of vaccination coverage throughout the world.
Vaccinations not only prevent death, they can also prevent illness, and the long-term consequences accompanying those illnesses—including disability. These illnesss include: diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumonia, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B, and rotavirus diarrhea.
In 2016, 86% of the world’s infant population (116.5 million infants) received the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine—up 34% from 30 years ago. 1 child of every 7 is unvaccinated—that’s approximately 19.5 million children, half of whom live in 6 countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and the Congo.
Vaccination coverage decreases in countries during periods of conflict.
Vaccination coverage is increasing in Palau, Malta, the Congo, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, East Timor, Barbados, Costa Rica and India.
There are an estimated 1 million cases of cholera in Yemen—making it one of the worst cholera epidemics in history.
Diptheria, which has almost been wiped out, is seeing a resurgence. There has been on outbreak of diphtheria among the Rohingya refugees—75% of these cases involve children.
Polio has almost been completely wiped out. Last year only 22 cases were reported in 2 countries.
By 2026 an estimated 1 billion Africans will have been vaccinated against yellow fever.
Maternal and neonatal tetanus has been eradicated in all but 15 countries. The last three countries in which it was eliminated in 2017 are the Philippines, Ethiopia and Haiti.