The World Immunisation Week is celebrated every year in the last week of April. It aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunisation saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful health interventions. Its observance highlights the importance of preventing vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs).
The 2021 World Immunisation Week theme ‘Vaccines bring us closer’, urges greater engagement around immunisation globally to promote the importance of vaccination in bringing people together, and improving the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere throughout life.
As part of the 2021 campaign, World Health Organisation (WHO), partnered and individuals around the world will unite to:
*Increase trust and confidence in vaccines to maintain or increase vaccine acceptance.
*Increase investment in vaccines, including routine immunisation, i.e., to remove barriers to access.
While the world focuses on critically important new vaccines to protect aganst Covid-19, there remains a need to ensure routine vaccinations are not missed. Many children have not been vaccinated during the global pandemic, leaving them at risk of serious diseases like measles and polio. Rapidly circulating misinformation around the topic of vaccination adds to this threat.
This year’s campaign will aim to build solidarity and trust in vaccination as a public good that saves lives and protects health. For over 200 years, vaccines have protected us against diseases that threaten lives and prohibit our development. With their help, we can progress without the burden of diseases like smallpox and polio, which cost humanity hundreds of millions of lives.
A year ago, there were 26 dangerous diseases for which we had safe and effective vaccines to prevent and control. Today, we add Covid-19 to the list of VPDs.
Whilst vaccines aren’t a silver bullet, they will help us progress on a path to a world where we can be together again. Vaccines themselves continue to advance, bringing us closer to a world free from the likes of TB and cervical cancer, and ending suffering from childhood diseases like measles.
Investment and new research is enabling ground breaking approaches to vaccine development, which are changing the science of immunisation forever, bringing us closer still to a healthier future.
*Allow us to freely gather safely, whether for work, leisure, learning, duty, or worship.
*Build bridges across generations, protecting the very young and old by preventing disease transmission within households and among caregivers.
*Bring us closer to our own potential, enabling the immunised to thrive across the lifespan, with body and mind safeguarded from dangerous and debilitating vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs).
Vaccines are amongst the greatest advances of modern medicine. They have slashed child mortality rates in half, saving millions of lives.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a devastating reminder of the chaos caused by diseases we cannot prevent. Thanks to vaccines, we now have a way of ending this pandemic and to rebuild our lives. But we’re not settling for a return to normal, as normal was never good enough for millions of children around the world. No child should die from preventable diseases and we won’t stop until that’s a reality.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and founder of the Seven Fund for UNICEF, David Beckham, is fronting a global initiative to inspire confidence in vaccines and encourage parents around the world.
“In the last year, Covid-19 has shown us how much we take for granted but it has also reminded us about the power of vaccines,” said Beckham. “Vaccines work, saving millions of lives every year. I have learned through my work with UNICEF just how important they are for the health of our loved ones. Yet too many children around the world don’t get the routine vaccines they need to be safe from deadly diseases. That’s why this World Immunisation Week, I’m so proud to be joining UNICEF and partners to encourage parents to vaccinate themselves and their children”, said Mr. Beckham.
“After a year of lockdowns, empty classrooms, missed vaccinations, virtual birthday parties, and cancelled family dinners, people all over the world are now getting a Covid-19 vaccine or anxiously awaiting the moment when they will. And it’s an important reminder of the critical role other vaccines play in allowing us to live our everyday lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“Whereas today we all know Covid-19 vaccines are the best hope we have of resuming our normal lives, what remains ‘normal’ for far too many children all over the world is no access to vaccines for any preventable diseases whatsoever. This is not a ‘normal’ to which we should return.”
Forty participants drawn from the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health and Child Care national, provincial and district teams, WHO, UNICEF and Civil Society Organisations representing youth, women and faith-based organisations recently held a Covid-19 Vaccine Demand Strategy development workshop in support of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in Zimbabwe.
The Demand Strategy provides a framework for the development of strategic and well-coordinated national action plans to rapidly counter vaccine misinformation and build demand for vaccination.
Reflecting on findings from the Covid-19 Vaccine Adult Perception survey conducted by UNICEF to understand the behavioural and social norms that influence vaccine uptake, participants acknowledged that the novel coronavirus has triggered a social pandemic of misinformation – an infodemic – that has spread across social networks.
The survey findings highlighted widespread mistrust, low vaccine confidence and low intention to vaccinate across all demographic groups due to safety concerns; lack of trust in science, efficacy and lack of information on vaccines.
The survey revealed negative religious beliefs and social norms particularly among the apostolic sects and Pentecostal religious movements and skepticism due to social media misinformation.
The implementation of the Covid-19 Vaccine Demand Strategy will ensure that target populations and communities value vaccination, trust the safety and efficacy of vaccines and have the necessary information and motivation to access vaccination services, as appropriate.
Till next week, stay safe.