The global vaccine drives of the second half of the 20th century are one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

Immunization campaigns have enabled us to eradicate smallpox, nearly defeat polio, and ensure more children survive and thrive than ever before.

This year World Immunization Week will celebrate 50 years of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) – recognizing our collective efforts to save and improve countless lives from vaccine-preventable diseases and calling on countries to ramp up investments in immunization programmes to protect the next generations. 

In just 5 decades we went from a world where the death of a child was something many parents feared, to a world where every child –– if vaccinated –– has a chance to survive and thrive. 

At its inception in 1974, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) focused on protecting all children against 6 childhood illnesses, but today, this number has grown to 13 universally recommended vaccines across the lifecourse, and 17 additional vaccines with context dependent recommendations. With the expansion of vaccination programme across the life course we now call it the Essential Programme on Immunization.    

In the last few years during the pandemic, progress on immunization slipped. While more than 4 million more children were vaccinated globally in 2022 compared to 2021, there were still 20 million children who missed out on one or more of their vaccines. Growing conflicts, economic downturns, and a rise in vaccine hesitancy are some of the threats to efforts to reach these children. As a result, the world is seeing sudden outbreaks of diphtheria and measles diseases that, until now, we’d had nearly in hand. While global vaccine coverage is good –– with 4 out of 5 kids fully covered –– we have more to do.    

We can make it possible for everyone to benefit from the life-saving power of vaccines.  

Source: WHO

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