World Immunization Week highlights the importance of vaccinations

World Immunisation Week logo, RESULTS Australia

Media Release 
Wednesday April 17, 2019

Did you know? There are nearly 20 million un-vaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world today.

The ongoing measles notifications in NSW alone have reached 36 since last Christmas, according to the NSW Department of Health, and the number of cases in Australia since the beginning of 2019 has reached 93 (similar to the total number for 2018).

The World Health Organisation has reported a dramatic increase in the number of measles cases in the first quarter of 2019, with member countries reporting 112,163 measles cases in the first three months of 2019, compared with 28,124 cases in the same period in 2018.  Measles is a serious viral illness, which is highly infectious.

A leading cause of measles cases in Australia are people who have picked up the disease while travelling overseas.

“With Australians taking more than nine million trips overseas per year, an important way of protecting ourselves is to assist other countries to prevent this disease,” said Mark Rice, RESULTS Australia’s Policy and Advocacy Manager.

In 2017, the World Health Organisation estimates that 110,000 people around the world died due to measles.

Two doses of measles vaccine provide lifelong protection in 99 out of 100 people who are vaccinated. While the risk of infection is low in fully-vaccinated people, health experts urge anyone who comes into contact with someone who has measles to remain alert for symptoms.

World Immunization Week is next week – April 24-30 – and aims to raise awareness of the importance of improving vaccination delivery services and increasing the rates of immunisation against vaccine-preventable diseases globally. The theme of this year’s campaign is Protected Together: Vaccines Work! 

An estimated 6.3 million children under the age of 15 years died in 2017. 5.4 million of them were under the age of five and 2.5 million of those children died within the first month of life, according to the World Health Organisation. This translates to nearly 15,000 children under-five dying every day.

The most frightening aspect of this is that two of the leading causes of death in children under five years of age are Pneumonia and Diarrhoea, which are both vaccine-preventable.

“Despite the enormous value of immunisation to humankind, significant numbers of infants, children and adults still do not have access to immunisation services and do not reap the benefits that many take for granted,” states the 2017 Assessment Report of the Global Vaccine Action Plan.

Progress in the coverage of some vaccines over the past decade has been impressive, with 85 per cent of children globally now receiving basic vaccinations.

During 2017, about 85 per cent of infants worldwide (116.2 million infants) received three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine, protecting them against infectious diseases that can cause serious illness, disability, or death in some cases. By 2017, 123 countries had reached at least 90 per cent coverage of DTP3 vaccine, states the World Health Organisation Fact Sheet.

Despite this, an estimated 19.9 million children under the age of one did not receive DTP3 vaccine.

Since its inception in 2000, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has helped developing countries to prevent more than 10 million future deaths through its support for routine immunisation programmes and vaccination campaigns.

Australia has an important role as a significant provider of assistance to the Asia-Pacific region, a Board member of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and a member of the World Health Organisation, to provide funding and advocacy for action to accelerate progress towards the Global Vaccination Action Program goals.

“Federal and State Governments have recently taken strong action to increase national vaccination rates. Now, we need the Australian Federal Government to support increased global vaccination coverage by pledging continued support to Gavi and to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative when they seek renewed funding,” said Mr Rice.

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For further information on World Immunization Week and vaccines, contact:
Amelia Rice
CEO of RESULTS Australia
Tel: (02) 9134 9983