We come to the end of World Immunization Week (WIW) 2022 with mixed feelings.
The speed at which vaccines for the coronavirus have been made available is reason for celebration, as is the speed at which billions of people have been vaccinated. While certain parts of the world might feel they are slowly coming out of the pandemic, we are reminded that most of the world’s population is still under-vaccinated against COVID-19. There is still a lot more to be done.
Long Life for All is the theme of this year’s World Immunization Week, which aims to highlight the collective action needed and promotes the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages from disease.
This year we have learned several new things that are vital to better understand the importance of vaccination:
1. Polio is a disease for which there is no cure – yet there is a very effective vaccine. The global fight to end polio has been one of the success stories in public health. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there had been decades of effort and investment in polio immunization, and the final eradication of the disease was within reach. However, routine immunization programs have been interrupted in many countries due to lockdowns and resource prioritization. Focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic is entirely understandable, yet, as a result, polio is now back. The risk of international spread of polio remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Polio reminds us that the fight against a new virus can have a negative impact on the achievements gained in the fight against a virus that has already been known for quite a while.
2. Earlier this year, the world started to learn more about known viruses and their correlation with existing diseases. The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) has been known for years and has already been found to contribute to certain cancers. This year, a study suggests that EBV may also be a leading cause of multiple sclerosis. EBV is one of the most common viral infections in the world and yet there is no vaccine available against it. While more research is being conducted to better understand how a known virus like EBV correlates with MS, a first vaccine candidate has started a Phase 1 clinical study. Altogether, the new insights into how EBV is possibly linked to MS is yet another strong reminder of the importance of immunization programs and vaccine development.
3. The recent rise in hepatitis in children appears to be related to an infection with a certain subtype of anadenovirus. And after routine immunizations were interrupted, measles cases soared in the first months of 2022, as did yellow fever outbreaks, Reuters reports.
Around the world, immunization campaigns are catching up and where possible are integrating COVID-19 vaccinations with routine immunizations. This is good news.
Beyond this World Immunization Week, we need to continue our immunization efforts – with renewed understanding and renewed motivation to get to #LongLifeforAll.
- Get more information on the World Immunization Week (WIW) by WHO.
- Learn about Berlinger's cold chain temperature monitoring for vaccination campaigns.
About the author: Hendrik Harbers is Director for Global Health at Berlinger & Co. AG.