This week we celebrate World Immunisation Week, with the overarching goals of increasing awareness, access, and coverage so that more people are protected from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.
Immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective health investments, helping to give each child a stronger chance of survival beyond their fifth birthday.
Globally, immunisation coverage has increased significantly over the last two decades, with 83% of children worldwide now receiving basic vaccines.
This progress has contributed to reductions in child mortality and moved us closer to achieving Millennium Development Goal 4: reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015.
Many great achievements have contributed to this progress. For example, the Global Vaccines Action Plan (GVAP) was endorsed at last year’s World Health Assembly, establishing worldwide immunisation targets, with both country and global commitment towards achieving them.
Significant investment in immunisation has contributed to more and more children being reached – as we highlighted in our briefing last year, One year on: Delivering on the promise of Vaccines for All.
Bringing down prices
Progress has also been made to bring down vaccine prices so that they are more affordable for countries, and therefore have the potential to reach more children – for example, the recent drop in five-in-one pentavalent vaccine prices.
These are but a few of the recent immunisation successes which are creating a more conducive environment for progress on child mortality. They go hand-in-hand with crucial country-level commitment, investment, strategies and action needed to improve coverage.
Stepping up efforts
This is also a moment to galvanise efforts to reach the unreached. While there has been a lot of progress on the immunisation front, a fifth of children are still missing out on even the most basic vaccines.
Momentum must be maintained and efforts stepped up to address these inequalities and ensure that all children are reached.
During this ‘Decade of Vaccines’ and beyond, addressing inequalities in immunisation coverage must be a priority. This point is emphasised in a recent article, Applying an equity lens in the Decade of Vaccines.
Tackling inequalities in immunisation coverage, however, must also help improve overall access to health services. Immunisation should be integrated with other health services and used to strengthen and bring otherwise excluded children into reach of the health system.
Reaching the unreached
As we celebrate how far we’ve come, we must also focus on where we need to go, and how to get there. Save the Children’s report Immunisation for All: No child left behind identifies country-level strategies and global action to reach the unreached.
We call for equitable progress towards universal access to the full benefits of immunisation, integrated with other essential health services.
Children must have access to all essential health service to which they are entitled, as part of their right to health.