European Immunization Week – vaccination is a right and responsibility for all


Vaccines protect people of all ages from potentially serious diseases. On 23–29 April 2018, European Immunization Week (EIW) is celebrated across the WHO European Region to raise awareness of the critical role vaccines play in protecting public health, and to remind each person to do their part to immunize Europe.

Measles still on the rise

In 2016, 1 in 15 infants in the Region did not receive their first measles-containing vaccine. This failure of immunization programmes to reach every child, and of some parents to fully immunize their children, has put many at unnecessary risk of illness or even death when outbreaks occur.

Following a record low in 2016, measles has rebounded in the Region, causing over 22 000 cases in 2017 and already over 11 000 cases in January and February 2018. The largest current outbreaks are in France, Greece, Serbia and Ukraine.

To stop these unacceptable outbreaks and ensure measles can be eliminated from every country in the Region, everyone will need to do their part. Only if parents, health professionals, community leaders and immunization programme staff are committed to vaccination can they together achieve the high immunization coverage needed to protect everyone. This entails coverage that is high enough to ensure herd immunity for those who cannot be vaccinated because they are too young or immunocompromised.

Health authorities can help to sustain progress and build a healthier future for all by ensuring immunization programmes have sustainable funding and secured supplies of vaccines.

Beyond measles

Ensuring high immunization coverage and expanding vaccine access to those who are being missed are crucial parts of universal health coverage. Vaccines prevent a number of diseases, such as rotavirus, measles, rubella, poliomyelitis, whooping cough, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus. They also contribute to realizing national priorities linked to education and economic development, and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Breadth and scope of EIW activities

Nearly all countries in the Region will engage in EIW with various activities, from information booths in Germany to a volleyball tournament in Kyrgyzstan. EIW and World Immunization Week, which take place simultaneously, offer a global WHO-led platform for action with the engagement of countless actors. These include Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; PATH; Rotary International; the United Nations Children’s Fund; patient and parent organizations; national authorities; public health and research institutes; and many more.