Statement – European Immunization Week 2018

By Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe

23 April 2018

The WHO European Region has made tremendous progress in strengthening immunization programmes and protecting people of all ages from vaccine-preventable diseases. Of the 53 countries in the Region, 33 have successfully eliminated measles and 33 have eliminated rubella. The Region has seen a large influx of migrants over the past few years, and Member States have risen to the task of ensuring that they have access to life-saving vaccines. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines were introduced in 3 more countries in the past year alone. In response to measles outbreaks, immunization activities to reach previously missed children have been initiated in Romania, Serbia and Ukraine, among other countries.

I am very proud of the health impact achieved as a result of strengthened immunization programmes, and applaud each and every individual in our Region who has contributed to making this possible. Thanks to the efforts of parents, health professionals, laboratory staff, policy-makers and so many more, health remains a high priority, and immunization is recognized as a fundamental tool to protect it.  

European Immunization Week is not only a time to reflect on our successes, but also to highlight the steps needed to close the remaining immunization gaps. We need dedicated action to identify and address the root causes of vulnerability in our Region that allow outbreaks to persist. Over 20 000 measles cases in 2017 were a dramatic warning that we have not done enough.

Over the last decades, we have benefitted from vaccines as a safe, accessible and effective public health intervention. However, every missed vaccination is a missed opportunity to stop the spread of disease and protect the most vulnerable. I personally urge every individual to take responsibility to vaccinate, so that we can together protect ourselves and those around us.