Programme Manager, Vaccine-preventable Diseases and Immunization, WHO Regional Office for Europe
Any person who is not protected from a highly contagious infection, like measles or human papillomavirus (HPV), is vulnerable, and a potential source of infection to others.
Living in Europe today, we can easily take for granted that with the help of vaccines, our families are protected from dangerous diseases that threatened every generation before us. We may also forget that too many children in our own communities and beyond are not protected, due to parental choice or health system failure. Any person who is not protected from a highly contagious infection, like measles or human papillomavirus (HPV), is vulnerable, and a potential source of infection to others.
We can easily take for granted that our families are protected from dangerous diseases.
The battle against vaccine-preventable diseases is far from over. The ever-present reality is that these diseases can continue to spread or make a comeback wherever immunisation gaps exist. Stopping these diseases is a personal and global responsibility.
Major health gains and even greater potential
Vaccines have contributed more to improving health and wellbeing than almost any other medical intervention. Immunisation currently averts an estimated two to three million deaths globally every year.
Anyone who is not protected from a contagious infection, is a potential source of infection to others.
Vaccination against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and pneumococcal bacteria has drastically reduced the rates of illness, disability and death they have caused. Vaccination against HPV promises to have the same dramatic effect on rates of cervical cancer and genital warts.
Safe and effective vaccines are a major tool in global efforts to improve the lives of billions through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 3, to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, would be unattainable without the basic protection offered by vaccines.
Vaccination also contributes to other SDGs by helping to ensure that children can fully benefit from quality education, girls have equal opportunity to thrive, and parents can maintain full employment. Without the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases, children do better at school and families spend less money on medicines or medical care.
Be the change you want to see
Achievement of global ambitions starts with individual action. The full potential of vaccines to contribute to health and development both at home and abroad can only be realised if each one of us plays our part: if parents ensure their families are fully vaccinated; if health professionals are well informed and educate their patients about the benefits of immunisation; if politicians prioritise immunisation in healthcare budgets, systems and laws.
Together we can ensure that the few individuals who cannot be vaccinated are shielded by the many who are, and that vaccine-preventable diseases have nowhere left to go.