Statement by Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe

Photo: Steen Evald

This year, as the WHO European Region marks the seventh European Immunization Week (EIW), I would like to take this opportunity to commend all 53 countries of the Region for their unified commitment to this initiative. The broad support for EIW is evidence of the Region’s dedication to raising awareness of the vital need for immunization and ensuring that vaccine coverage remains high.

In 2012, we have much to celebrate in terms of immunization successes in our Region. Of particular note, is that this year we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the European Region being declared polio-free. This is an achievement that should be applauded, and it provides an important example of the positive results that we can achieve when we work together to stop the spread of life threatening vaccine-preventable diseases.

However, even as we celebrate 10 years of polio-free status, we must recognize that the Region continues to struggle with measles outbreaks. In 2011, we saw more than 37 000 reported cases of measles, mostly in the western part of the Region, including 10 deaths. We live in a time and place where vaccines are safe, effective and accessible. We must not allow vaccine-preventable diseases to spread because we have failed to adequately immunize our children.

When I became Patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe in 2006 I committed to promotion of immunization as a means of protecting both today’s and future generations. I encourage all countries of the Region to continue their efforts to raise immunization awareness and to work towards important regional goals, such as sustaining polio-free status and achieving measles elimination by 2015. Together, we can help protect the Region from serious diseases and create a healthier future for our children.