World Immunization Week: Health Minister Stresses The Significance of Vaccination in Pakistan

The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and the Federal EPI commemorated the “World Immunization Week (WIW), 2021” with the theme “Vaccines bring us closer.”

Every year the WIW is celebrated in the last week, aiming to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against infectious diseases. Vaccines save millions of lives every year and are widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost effective health interventions. “This year’s theme Vaccine brings us closer urges greater engagement around immunization globally to promote the role of vaccines in bringing people together, and improving the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere” said, Dr. Akram Shah, National Program Manager, Federal EPI in his opening remarks during the event.

The world immunization week reminds all of us of our responsibility in taking action to bring the benefits of immunization to all. In this regard, I urge all parents to get their children vaccinated! When people ensure that their families and communities are protected with vaccines, we are all protected together, said Dr. Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health during the opening ceremony of the World Immunization week (WIW). Immunizing children with vaccines can avert up to 17% of childhood mortality in Pakistan and thus help contribute towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, on reducing child morbidity and mortality, said Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, Director General Health. He added, diseases with higher transmissibility like measles and polio pose a much higher risk to hit back strongly.

Associated morbidity and mortality from these can further intensify the burden on our health system. In this regard, I urge parents to ensure essential immunization of their children. Essential or routine childhood immunization is a set of inoculations, given from birth to the age of 15 months. Completing the schedule protects children from 11 diseases that are preventable through vaccines, such as tuberculosis, polio (OPV & IPV), measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, diarrhoea, pneumonia, , and typhoid. The entire course is provided for free by the government’s EPI with support from global and technical partners, like Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, the WHO and Unicef.

It is paramount that all eligible children are vaccinated against the 11 Vaccine Preventable Diseases inclusive of Polio. I humbly request all parents and care giver to work with Immunization teams and bring out your children for vaccination and encourage others to get vaccine for full protection of our communities, said Dr. Shahzad Baig, Coordinator NEOC during the launching event.

On the eve of World Immunization Week, I would like to stress that Immunization will help Pakistani children to grow into healthy adults. Vaccinated, healthy children can attend school and reap the benefits of education, and their parents are able to participate in the workforce, putting communities on the path to greater economic prosperity. WHO is supporting the government of Pakistan to reach every child everywhere across the country. We are very happy that the WHO-supported outreach vaccination reached to around 40% of Pakistani children despite the Covid-19 situation in 2020, said Dr. Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, WHO Representative in Pakistan.

“During the World Immunization Week, more than ever before, we commend the heroic efforts of the frontline health workers, social mobilisers and community leaders for immunizing and protecting children and women across Pakistan,” said Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. “As UNICEF reaches almost half of the world’s children with life-saving vaccines, we stand committed to continue our support to the national Expanded Programme for Immunization in an effort to fulfil every child’s right to immunization, especially the most vulnerable and in hard-to-reach areas.”

The ceremony ended with EPI Pakistan acknowledging the efforts of the vaccinators and frontline workers by presenting mementos to the best performing individuals from across the country.