World Immunization Week – celebrated every year in the last week of April – aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunization saves millions of lives annually and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful health interventions. Yet, there are still nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need, and many miss out on vital vaccines during adolescence, adulthood, and into old age.

Immunization campaigns have enabled us to eradicate smallpox, nearly defeat polio, and ensure more children survive and thrive than ever before.

In 2024, World Immunization Week will celebrate 50 years of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) – recognizing our collective efforts to save and improve countless lives from vaccine-preventable diseases and calling on countries to ramp up investments in immunization programs to protect the next generations. 

In just 5 decades we went from a world where the death of a child was something many parents feared, to a world where every child –– if vaccinated –– has a chance to survive and thrive. 

In 1974, the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) focused on protecting all children against 6 childhood illnesses. This number has grown to 13 universally recommended vaccines across the lifecourse, and 17 additional vaccines with context-dependent recommendations. With the expansion of the vaccination program across the life course, we now call it the Essential Program on Immunization.    

In the last few years during the pandemic, progress on immunization slipped. While more than 4 million more children were vaccinated globally in 2022 compared to 2021, there were still 20 million children who missed out on one or more of their vaccines. Growing conflicts, economic downturns, and a rise in vaccine hesitancy are some of the threats to efforts to reach these children. As a result, the world is seeing sudden outbreaks of diphtheria and measles diseases that, until now, we’d had nearly eliminated. While global vaccine coverage is good –– with 4 out of 5 kids fully covered –– we have more to do.    

We can make it possible for everyone to benefit from the life-saving power of vaccines.  

For over 200 years, vaccines have protected us against diseases that threaten lives and prohibit our development. With their help, we can progress without the burden of diseases like smallpox and polio, which cost humanity hundreds of millions of lives. Vaccines aren't a silver bullet, they will help us progress to a world where we can be together again.  

Vaccines themselves continue to advance, bringing us closer to a world free from the likes of TB and cervical cancer, and ending suffering from childhood diseases like measles.

Investment and new research have enabled groundbreaking approaches to vaccine development, changing immunization science forever, and bringing us closer to a healthier future.


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