The week of April 21-27 is the 7th European Immunization Week which promotes the immunization of children as a crucial way to stop the spread of disease. It is estimated that 650,000 people are still not fully immunized so the goal of the week is to make vaccination coverage in Europe more widespread through an increased awareness of the importance of immunization.
This year marks the first World Immunization Week where each WHO region recognizes the importance of vaccination. Additionally, every country in the WHO European Region will participate in this year’s awareness week which highlights Europe’s commitment to ending the outbreak of infectious diseases.
Immunization is used to control and eliminate life-threatening diseases and is one of the most successful health measures one can take. According to the WHO, 2-3 million deaths are saved through immunization each year.
Due to the fact that vaccine-preventable diseases are almost eliminated in Europe, some parents and health professionals do not find it necessary to vaccinate children. However, immunization is still very important because gaps in vaccination coverage can cause nearly eradicated diseases to return.
In April 2011, the WHO reported that 33 countries in Europe had reported more than 6,500 measles cases, marking a measles outbreak. Despite the near eradication of most communicable diseases in Europe and a 74% decline in the amount of measles deaths from 2000 to 2010, there are still 382 deaths from measles every day, all of which can be avoided through vaccination.
In order to discuss the importance of immunization, on Thursday 26 April from 16:00-17:00 CEST/Paris time, experts from WHO/Europe will be hosting a live question and answer session on Twitter. To join the conversation, send your questions to @WHO_Europe, using the hashtag #immunizeEurope. Additionally, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is holding a “Free thinkers for measles elimination” meeting this week followed by an event focusing on eliminating measles through childhood vaccination in early May.
During European Immunization Week 2012, spread the word about the individual and societal benefits of immunization. Simple and routine vaccinations can make an enormous amount of difference in eliminating debilitating diseases in Europe and worldwide