First European Immunization Week meeting
On 19-20 September 2006, a meeting was held at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, to discuss the European Immunization Week (EIW): lessons learnt and planning of the next EIW, 16-22 April 2007.
The EIW is an advocacy and communication initiative, developed to address declining interest, investment and understanding of immunization in the WHO European Region. The goal of the initiative is “to increase vaccination coverage by raising awareness of the importance of every child’s need and right to be protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. A special focus is placed on activities targeting hard to reach groups”. In 2005, the initiative was piloted with nine countries implementing activities.
Experiences from 2005 and discussions at the meeting in Copenhagen clearly showed that the initiative enhances awareness of immunization. The EIW is an effective tool and a framework to strengthen communication and advocacy for immunization, complementing other immunization activities. The meeting demonstrated a clear wish by the Member States to continue this Region-wide initiative on an annual basis.
There was a general understanding that the EIW requires additional financial and human resources and that planning should start well in advance of the launch date. In addition, political commitment is vital to the success of the initiative.
It was agreed that hard-to-reach groups should remain a focus of the initiative. Activities should be based on indepth analysis and knowledge of target groups and barriers to increasing vaccination coverage – and be considered part of long-term, comprehensive efforts to increase coverage.
Key stakeholders, including community leaders, non-governmental organizations and staff in local administrative and health facilities should be involved early in the planning process. It was stressed that the involvement and commitment of high-level decision makers was crucial to the success of the initiative.
The participants requested WHO to continue encouraging national political commitment for the initiative, facilitating an appropriate environment for advocacy and enabling improved inter-country collaboration.