Vaccines work for all
From April 24 to 30, the observance of World Immunization Week takes special significance as nearly the entire planet battles a new disease for which there is still no vaccine and no cure. Scientists are rushing tests on various potential vaccines or cures for the coronavirus disease 2019. Before anything is developed and released for mass application, however, thousands more are likely to succumb to COVID-19.
The raging pandemic tragically highlights the urgency of achieving universal coverage of immunization programs. The World Health Organization warns that despite the widespread availability of vaccines for numerous types of illnesses, an estimated 20 million children worldwide are still not getting the vaccines they need.
In the Philippines, a scare over a contraindication for the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which was belatedly discovered through testing by manufacturer Sanofi-Pasteur, caused people to shy away from long-tested immunization programs. The scare is seen to be responsible for an outbreak of measles last year, and the return of polio after 19 years of the country being free of the debilitating and potentially fatal affliction. From the start of 2019 until Nov. 23, health personnel recorded 44,014 measles cases in the Philippines, with 576 deaths related to the disease.
The WHO has designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and had hoped to have these health workers serve as champions of early vaccination among new and prospective parents. All health professionals, unfortunately, are going to be preoccupied for a long time with the battle against COVID-19.
Even amid the pandemic, however, children will continue to be delivered, and parents will continue attending to their children. This year’s theme for World Immunization Week is “vaccines work for all.” It’s a good time to remind everyone about the life-saving importance of vaccination.