As World Immunisation week (24-30 April) begins, we are exploring some of the WHO’s goals for the coming year. Under the “banner” of “The Big Catch-Up”, WHO is aiming to highlight the actions needed to protect people from vaccine-preventable diseases and work with partners to “support countries to get back on track”. Citing the pandemic as a major cause of the observed backslide in routine immunisation, WHO hopes to “restore essential immunisation coverage to at least 2019 levels”.  

“The ultimate goal of World Immunisation Week is for more children, adults – and their communities – to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, allowing them to live happier, healthier lives.”  

What do we know so far? 

As the world continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, learning lessons from an educative immunisation experience, we are becoming aware of decreases and drops in routine immunisation programmes. For example, in September 2022, Dr Anthony Fauci warned of politicisation of healthcare in the US. 

“I’m concerned that the acceleration of an anti-vaxxer attitude in certain segments of the population…might spill over into that kind of a negative attitude towards childhood vaccinations, which would be very tragic.”  

Just two months later, in November, WHO published a statement concerning the 25 million children who had missed their first dose of a measles vaccine. 

“This decline is a significant setback in global progress towards achieving and maintaining measles elimination and leaves millions of children susceptible to infection.”  

More recently, in April 2023, UNICEF published its annual The State of the World’s Children report, which suggests that “we are not meeting our goal to vaccinate every child”.

“The pandemic has only darkened this picture.”  

What does WHO suggest? 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus states that “by restoring lost immunisation progress to at least pre-pandemic levels, we can secure healthier futures for our children”.  

“From new parents to presidents and prime ministers, we all have a role to play in promoting vaccination to protect the adult in every child, and the future of every adult.” 

Dr Kate O’Brien is WHO’s Director of the Department of Immunisation, Vaccination, and Biologicals. In a statement just before World Immunisation Week she invited the global immunisation community and key partners to “highlight the life-saving importance of vaccines”.  WHO will be showcasing success stories throughout the week to draw attention to countries that have “sustained vaccination programmes over the last three years” and “newly initiated efforts to scale up vaccinations”.  

“We need action everywhere but especially in the 20 countries where over three-quarters of children who missed vaccinations in 2021 live.”  

What will you do to mark World Immunisation Week, and how do you engage your community or encourage trust in vaccines?