Vaccinating the World: World Immunization Week

Posted by Andrea Strano
April 28, 2014
A Health Worker Administers Polio Vaccine to a Child

I’ve had my share of shots, and though the pinching of the needle only lasts -- ouch! -- less than a second, I dislike the experience.  But I know it’s better to brave the injection than to contract one of the 25 deadly diseases that are preventable by vaccination. 

The last time I needed a vaccination, I got out of my car, grabbed a chocolate chip muffin at the medical center coffee cart, wrapped a sweater around me to repel the cold of the air conditioning, and broke a nail reaching for my health insurance card.  And while I may have grumbled about the experience to a couple of my friends, I also realized that I’m fortunate.

In other parts of the world, getting a shot is a little different.  How many miles would I have to walk?  How much would I have to pay?  Would it be safe?  Both misinformation and the lack of information about the benefits of immunization, such as the individual- and community-level protection from infectious diseases and the positive economic impact, can prevent people from getting the most basic vaccinations. 

Heroically, health workers are on the front line of providing life-saving vaccines to those who need them.  Health care workers around the globe brave stigma, civil unrest, dangerous weather, and other threats to complete their mission.  Armed only with training, equipment, and vaccinations from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among others, these health professionals do the work of the World Health Organization and UNICEF to vaccinate the world.  In the 1970s, children’s immunizations reached just 10 percent.  Today it is around 79 percent, thanks to global coordination and the aid that the American people provide through USAID and CDC.

Thanks to United States aid efforts, and multilateral institutions like the GAVI Alliance and UNICEF, more people around the world are seeking vaccinations.  The last week in April, the World Health Organization and partners mark World Immunization Week, a campaign to draw attention to the importance of vaccinations against deadly and debilitating diseases. The focus of this year’s campaign -- “Are you up to date?” (#RUuptodate)  -- asks each of us to be sure we have all the vaccines we need for the best chance at a healthy future.

About the Author: Andrea Strano is a Foreign Service Officer in the Office of Human Security in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.

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