In 2005, WHO/EMRO adopted the regional vision that "No child should die from vaccine-preventable diseases". Since then, the Eastern Mediterranean Region has made remarkable progress in reducing morbidity and mortality due to vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccination coverage with three doses of DTP3 has increased from 18% in 1980 to 87% in 2009. Twenty countries maintained their polio-free status. The 90% measles mortality reduction target was reached three years ahead of schedule. An increasing number of countries are introducing new and under-utilised vaccines.
However, despite this substantial progress, the Region still faces many challenges: in 2009, approximately 1.9 million children did not receive DTP3 by their first birthday; Afghanistan and Pakistan are still polio-endemic countries; maternal and neonatal tetanus are still not eliminated; and the success of measles mortality reduction needs to be sustained.
To address both the opportunities and challenges, WHO/EMRO coordinated the second Vaccination Week in the Eastern and Mediterranean Region during the week of 24-30 April 2011. The Vaccination Week in the Eastern Mediterranean Region is an annual region-wide initiative promoting the value of immunisation through advocacy, education and communication activities. The theme for the 2011 Vaccination Week was "partnership for immunisation".
The objectives of the Immunisation Week included:
(1) Increasing stakeholder awareness of the value of immunisation;
(2) Promoting and maintaining immunisation as a priority for policy- and decision-making;
(3) Advocating for and mobilising human and financial resources; and
(4) Improving access to immunisation for high-risk populations and hard-to-reach areas in the Region.
Strategies used included: targeted advocacy and education; communication and media activities; and expansion of immunisation services.
The Regional Launch of the Vaccination Week took place in Cairo, Egypt, on 21 April 2011. Dr. Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, addressed senior officials from the ministries, local organisations and the media. The ceremony was followed by a panel discussion with members of academia, media, governmental and non-governmental organisations. Twenty countries in the Eastern and Mediterranean Region participated in the second Vaccination Week. Almost all countries in the Region organised a national launching ceremony. All participating countries implemented advocacy, education and communication activities. Implemented activities included: mass media campaigns; social mobilisation: awareness events, public meetings, activities in schools; training of health professionals, and medical and nursing students; meetings: round-table, seminars; exhibitions and awards. Countries set their own objectives based on national priorities and epidemiological situation.
The second Vaccination Week in the Eastern Mediterranean Region was a successful event in increasing awareness on the importance and benefits of immunisation in the Region.