Mission continues to vaccinate all citizens of the world

Published April 28, 2022, 6:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

World Immunization Week is marked annually during the last week of April, with this year’s events held from April 24 until the 30th. With the theme “Long Life for All,” this comes at a time when booster shots in our country are receiving a lukewarm response and where millions of vaccine doses are at risk of expiring.  It is therefore an opportune time to highlight once more the importance of vaccines to protect people of all ages against Covid-19 and other diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the agency spearheading World Immunization Week, is working across the globe, including our own Department of Health (DOH), to raise awareness of the value of vaccines and immunizations, and also ensures that governments obtain the necessary guidance and technical support to implement efficient immunization programs.

“The ultimate goal of the World Immunization Week is for more people – and their communities – to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases,” according to a statement from WHO.

For more than two centuries, vaccines have helped keep people healthy — from the very first vaccine developed to protect against smallpox to the newest vaccines used to prevent severe cases of Covid-19. Since then, families and communities have entrusted vaccines to protect their loved ones.

According to the WHO, the value of vaccines is measured by more than the number of doses given. “Vaccines provide everyone a chance at a fulfilling life. This year’s campaign comes at an especially critical time as the pandemic has disrupted essential health services, including routine immunization, setting back progress by more than a decade. Unfortunately, millions of people are still missing out on the life-saving benefits of vaccines, making it urgent to catch up and reach those who have been missed. The 2022 theme ‘Long Life for All’ aims to unify people around the idea that vaccines make it possible for us to follow our dreams, protect our loved ones, and live a long, healthy life.”

Even with the outright benefits of vaccines, the world still sees a high level of vaccine hesitancy among citizens due to a variety of factors. The WHO wants to use the week to remind them that “people around the world have been getting vaccinated for centuries, leading to the eradication of smallpox and driving down polio cases to an all-time low.”  And because of vaccines, “parents can worry less about their children suffering from devastating diseases that once plagued past generations.”

“For the past two decades, more than 1.1 billion children were immunized, saving four to five million lives each year and helping to reduce child deaths by half.”

Vaccines, the WHO said, are one of the most impactful scientific innovations of all time, helping to protect generations of people against infectious diseases throughout the course of their lives. A culmination of over 200 years of research, worldwide collaboration, and rigorous testing has led to the development of safe and effective vaccines for more than 25 diseases.

Reeling from a devastating pandemic, our country is now feeling a sense of normalcy. This happened primarily due to the strict implementation of health protocols and the high rate of first and second immunizations especially among the vulnerable. This “peace of mind,” however, may soon be broken if vaccines intended as booster shots remain in vials instead of the arms of Filipinos.  The government now has to immediately strategize how to boost this booster campaign and make sure that seniors, medical workers, and those with comorbidities will be prioritized and have easy access.

World Immunization Week does not only remind us of the important role that vaccines have played in our past – it also imprints on us that vaccines are vital if we envision a better and safer future.