UNICEF, among other majors organizations, is known for their heavy work in immunization. Their efforts extend beyond acquiring funding for the actual products but actually probe into issues such as geographical obstacles, social stigmas against vaccinations, and political issues such as the killings in Pakistan. With its first ever World Immunization Week, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and European health agencies are not only raising awareness of the life-saving capabilities of vaccines but increasing their efforts to reach children in even the most remote areas.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, many Roma communities lack access to clinics and thus vaccines. This week, with the help of funding from the German National Committee, 5,000 children vulnerable to diseases were given vaccines that protected them against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, mumps, measles, and rubella. Dr. Mitar Tesanovic, a coordinator for the program, stated that “it was unrealistic to expect those children to approach the medical institution. Therefore we decided that the system should approach them; we know now the decision was a good one.”
Jos Vandelaer, UNICEF’s Global Immunization Program director, also touched on the issue of anti-vaccination in his reddit AMA on Monday. Many parents, regardless of socio-economic background, have certain fears of constantly injecting their children with different medicines and vaccines. For example, there was the fear that vaccinations lead to autism, a link that Vandelaer discredits and said has been scientifically disproven. By partnering with local clinics and volunteers, UNICEF is able to go beyond education but really help them realize the benefits of not only having their children immunized but trying to keep records of that as well.
With 22.4 million unimmunized children in 2011, UNICEF hopes that they can jump off the plateau they have been resting on for a couple of years and start to fully eradicate diseases such as polio by next year.
– Deena Dulgerian
Source: UNICEF, The-Star