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Immunizations and Global Health

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General Information

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the body that oversees the health of all citizens of the world. The WHO consists of 193 member countries organized into 6 regions. About 8,000 people complete the work of the WHO in offices and laboratories throughout the world.

The WHO recommends the following vaccines for all infants and young children:

  • Tuberculosis

  • Polio

  • Diphtheria

  • Tetanus

  • Pertussis

  • Hepatitis B

  • Measles

Some children are also recommended to get yellow fever and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccines.

Immunization programs may seek to control, eliminate or eradicate a disease. Disease control targets disease reduction to a specific geographic region. Elimination focuses on stopping the transmission of disease in a given region, and eradication seeks to completely eliminate a disease from the face of the earth. Smallpox is the only disease that has ever been eradicated. Polio is nearing eradication; however, there are four countries in which polio transmission has never been interrupted—India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In order for a disease to be a candidate for eradication, it must have a recognizable illness, have no long-term or chronic infection status, be found only in humans, and have a means for effective intervention, such as a vaccine.

In developing countries, immunization programs may suffer from factors such as:

  • Lack of health infrastructure

  • Poor economic conditions

  • Political disturbances

  • Lack of trust for authority or outsiders

There are international alliances that work toward control of some diseases such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Measles Initiative. These efforts have been successful in introducing vaccines to more countries and reducing the effects of these diseases throughout the world.

To learn more about the ideas covered in this section, go to:
World Health Organization:
http://www.who.int/en/

Worldwide Immunization Schedules:
http://www.who.int/immunization_monitoring/en/globalsummary/scheduleselect.cfm

Global Polio Eradication Initiative:
http://www.polioeradication.org/

Measles Initiative:
http://www.measlesinitiative.org/

 

Specific Information:
Global Vaccine Progress

Tracking Infectious Diseases
The World Health Organization (WHO) is the organization charged with understanding and tracking the health of the world’s population. The WHO was set-up by the United Nations, and its Constitution became effective on April 7, 1948. WHO is governed by the World Health Assembly which includes representatives from each of the WHO’s 193 member countries.  

Member countries are organized into six regions including:

  • African region

  • Region of the Americas

  • Eastern Mediterranean Region

  • European Region

  • South-East Asia Region

  • Western Pacific Region

About 8,000 people complete the work of the WHO in various offices and laboratories throughout the world.

The WHO:

  • provides leadership

  • shapes research

  • sets norms and standards for health

  • articulates policy

  • provides technical support

  • monitors health situations and trends

WHO Vaccine Recommendations and Schedules
The WHO recommends the following vaccines for all infants and young children throughout the world:

  • Tuberculosis

  • Polio

  • Diphtheria

  • Tetanus

  • Pertussis

  • Hepatitis B

  • Measles

Some populations are recommended to also receive:

  • Yellow fever

  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)  

Despite these recommendations, countries vary regarding which vaccines are used. The variability exists for various reasons including disease rates, economics, and politics. The WHO provides a tool for viewing vaccine schedules from different countries. It can be found at http://www.who.int/immunization_monitoring/en/globalsummary/scheduleselect.cfm.

Goals for Immunization Programs
Vaccine programs may be considered successful by different standards depending upon disease characteristics and program goals, which can include:

  • Disease control which focuses on a specific geographic location and aims to decrease the level of a particular disease in that area.

  • Elimination which focuses on stopping transmission of a disease in a given geographic area.

  • Eradication which focuses on completely eliminating the disease throughout the world.

Smallpox is the only disease that has ever been eradicated. Polio is nearing eradication; however, there are still four countries where polio transmission has never been successfully interrupted— Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

In order for a disease to be targeted for eradication, it must have certain characteristics:

  • an easily recognizable illness

  • no long-term or chronic infection

  • be found only in humans

  • have an effective intervention (e.g., a vaccine) that provides long-lasting immunity

Vaccines in the Developing World
Immunization programs in developing countries can be particularly difficult to implement and maintain. Lack of established health infrastructure, poor economic conditions, political disturbances, and lack of trust for authority or outsiders all contribute to these conditions.

Because worldwide travel is common, vaccine coverage and disease control in all parts of the world affects each of us.

Global Vaccine Initiatives

Polio
Efforts to eradicate polio have been well-established by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The group has been making inroads since 1988. Partners include the WHO, Rotary International, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and UNICEF. When the program started, polio was endemic in more than 125 countries on five continents and paralyzed more than 1,000 children every day. Today, polio is only endemic in four countries (India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan) and less than 2,000 cases occur per year. This effort is the largest, internationally-coordinated public health project the world has known.

Measles
The Measles Initiative began in 2001 and includes partners such as the WHO, CDC, UNICEF, American Red Cross and United Nations Foundation. Since the initiative began, deaths caused by measles throughout the world have dropped by 74%, from an estimated 750,000 in 2000 to about 197,000 in 2007. Measles vaccine costs less than $1 per child. The goal of the initiative is to reduce measles deaths by 90% by 2010.

Other Initiatives
Similar initiatives work toward progress against Hib, malaria, meningitis, pneumococcus, rotavirus and HPV. Each of these efforts seeks to establish immunization programs in more countries, raise funds and lower rates of disease and death among the world’s population.

One of the most successful coalitions completing this work is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization or GAVI. This organization alone has contributed more than US $1 billion to support immunizations in the poorest countries.

To learn more about the ideas covered in this section, go to:
World Health Organization:
http://www.who.int/en/

Worldwide Immunization Schedules:
http://www.who.int/immunization_monitoring/en/globalsummary/scheduleselect.cfm

Global Polio Eradication Initiative:
http://www.polioeradication.org/

Measles Initiative:
http://www.measlesinitiative.org/

Other disease specific initiatives:
Hib: http://www.hibaction.org/
HPV: http://www.rho.org/ 
Malaria: http://www.malariavaccine.org/
Meningitis: http://www.meningvax.org/
Pneumococcus: http://www.preventpneumo.org/
Rotavirus: http://www.rotavirusvaccine.org/

Additional information:
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Parents PACK- Global Immunizations:
http://www.chop.edu/consumer/jsp/division/generic.jsp?id=89766

GAVI:
http://www.gavialliance.org/about/in_partnership/index.php

PATH:
http://www.path.org/index.php

 


 

 

UPDATED: July 2009

 

 

 

 

©2006 Philadelphia Immunization Coalition