World Immunisation Week is a World Health Organisation (WHO) campaign to promote awareness of the importance of vaccines throughout the world. The campaign also aims to further encourage their use to save millions from unnecessary suffering. This year, the thrust of World Immunisation Week is a more action-oriented approach to vaccine use with a focus on the part that everyone can play. The theme is “Protected Together, #VaccinesWork”. Whether we are donating to the cause or promoting it as individuals, each one of us can help in some way to ease suffering by preventing disease.
The WHO and all who partner with them in this endeavour aim to draw attention to the importance of immunisation and where in the world vaccines are either still not available or not an important part of common health practices. Governments, organisations and individuals are urged to recognise the need for promoting and investing in immunisation efforts. Collective action is the key to getting vaccinations to everyone who needs them.
Will You Help?
Immunisation is one of the most efficient health intervention methods that we have. It saves millions of lives that would otherwise be unnecessarily lost to cervical cancer, hepatitis B, mumps, pneumonia, rotavirus diarrhoea, and many more diseases. But in other parts of the world, there are more than 19 million children who do not receive the life-saving vaccinations that could so easily be administered. Whether it’s a lack of government investment in immunisation efforts, a lack of advocacy by influential groups, or a lack of initiative to bring children for vaccination, a gap exists that needs to be filled through greater awareness and funding.
In the past few decades, the WHO has worked to bring vital vaccines to countries all over the world. Through their efforts, debilitating polio has all but been eradicated - there are now cases in only 3 countries, down from 125, a 99% drop. The world also saw an 84% decline in deaths caused by measles in the last 7 years due to the administration of a simple vaccine. 116.5 million infants received the proper doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine in 2016 alone, which is protecting them from several infectious and debilitating diseases.
Despite these staggering numbers, the 2012 Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) of the World Health Assembly is behind schedule. 194 countries supported this plan to promote immunisation as a preventive measure against millions of deaths by 2020. Although individual countries have made improvements in the availability and administration of vaccines, disease elimination for deadly measles, rubella, maternal and neonatal tetanus, and others, is not happening fast enough.
Why Immunisation is Important
Obviously, without proper immunisation, millions of children are left exposed to many diseases. On a larger scale, this means a poor success rate for sustainable development. Routine immunisation is needed to build and sustain a strong primary healthcare system. It helps to control viral outbreaks, and prevent resistance to antimicrobial drugs. On an even larger scale, it is the foundation of universal health coverage for development on a global scale. Beginning health care when life begins promises the chance at healthier life.
In the past year, there has been no growth in global vaccination coverage. This means that 14% of the world’s children are still not getting the basic vaccines that could easily save them from suffering, debilitation and death.
It’s important to ensure that your child is healthy in the weeks prior to a scheduled immunisation. Consult your healthcare provider regarding an infant’s or child’s health status and what precautions to take for each specific vaccine.
Immediately before the immunisation, it’s important to remain calm and be confident. Babies and children are highly attuned to parents’ emotions. Make sure that the child has a favourite toy or comforting object close at hand. For babies, nursing before, during and after the shot is a good way to keep them calm. Bring nursing pads along as waiting times can sometimes be unpredictable.
Do not give a child pain relievers like acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol, Tempra) or ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) before the shot. Explain to older children what will happen, including the pain - a pinch for a few seconds - and why it is important to get through it. To help with the pain, you can apply a topical anesthetic on the area that will receive the vaccine about one hour prior. Be sure to ask your doctor or a pharmacist what is safe to use.
It’s important to hold your baby or older child close during immunisation to offer security. Distractions can also help, such as blowing bubbles, playing with a toy, reading a favourite book or watching a favourite show. Instruct older children to breathe deeply as you hold and comfort them in a soothing voice. Don’t focus on the pain, but acknowledge it and don’t ignore it.
After a shot, you may give a child acetaminophen as prescribed if they are fussy or crying. Wait 15 minutes before leaving the clinic to watch for any signs of a bad reaction to the vaccine. Vaccines are thoroughly tested before being released, but unknown reactions can surface.
Fever as well as pain, redness and swelling at the injection site are common within 2 days after vaccination. Make sure your child is comfortable during this period. Give them the best pillows and bamboo sheets to help them feel cooler and more at ease. Treat fevers as prescribed by your doctor and by applying a cold cloth or cool gel pack to the forehead to relieve discomfort. Treat pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, making sure to check the proper dosage with your healthcare provider. A cold cloth on the injection site can also help relieve discomfort. Encourage movement in the limb where the injection was administered to improve circulation and promote faster healing. Continue to comfort your child throughout the experience so they do not fear succeeding immunisations. A lump forming under the skin is also normal, and may subside only after 1-4 weeks. If your child develops any strange reactions within 4 weeks of the vaccine, contact your immunisation provider.