Budapest, 4 March 2011
Speaking at the opening of a high-level conference on childhood immunization, which takes place this week in Budapest, Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, stated that on immunization issues, Europe “stands at a crossroads”. Despite the challenges, Ms Jakab remains confident that the European Region will achieve its goals of remaining polio free and eliminating measles and rubella, as well as reducing mortality from other vaccine-preventable diseases. This, she underlined, will be achieved by continuing collaboration and innovation, joint planning and the implementation of effective preventive measures.
Vaccines and immunization have contributed to dramatic health improvements in the WHO European Region, particularly among children. Globally, there was a 99% reduction in poliomyelitis (polio) cases and a 78% reduction in measles mortality between 2000 and 2008.
Thanks to collaborative efforts, the Region is on the threshold of eliminating measles and rubella. The benefits of vaccination are increasingly extended to adolescents and adults, providing protection against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis and cancer.
Yet this progress faces several threats: high levels of population movement, the existence of unimmunized groups because of limited access to health care services and a continuing decline in vaccine acceptance among populations. Today, the Region must deal with recent and continuing measles outbreaks, and the re-emergence of polio last year.
European Immunization Week takes place this year on 23–30 April. WHO/Europe coordinates this initiative, which aims to highlight the benefits of vaccination and raise awareness about such issues as lack of access to both traditional and new vaccines.
Conference “For a Healthy Future of Our Children”
The Government of Hungary organized the conference on childhood immunization on 3-4 March 2011 as part of its activities as President of the Council of the European Union (EU). Hungary holds the Presidency from 1 January to 30 June 2011.
The conference is jointly organized by the Hungarian Presidency, the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and WHO/Europe.
Its aims to increase awareness of the importance of achieving and maintaining high childhood immunization coverage, and brings together representatives of health ministries and senior public health experts and epidemiologists from the EU and EU candidate countries. The conference focuses on:
addressing the achievements of and challenges to childhood immunization;
reviewing cross-border issues, including increasing mobility and migration, which raise a number of health security questions;
discussing the monitoring of vaccination coverage;
sharing experience with special efforts to improve immunization in general and in undervaccinated population groups; and
considering shared responsibilities for action by countries and the EU.
Notes for the editors:
Conference: “For a Healthy Future of Our Children – Childhood Immunization”
Opening statement by the WHO Regional Director for Europe: http://www.euro.who.int/en/who-we-are/regional-director/speeches-and-presentations/conference-for-a-healthy-future-of-our-children-childhood-immunization-opening-statement-by-the-who-regional-director-for-europe
Measles outbreaks continue across Europe: WHO says, get vaccinated: http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topics/disease-prevention/vaccines-and-immunization/news/news/2012/03/measles-outbreaks-continue-across-europe-who-says,-get-vaccinated
Next steps towards eliminating measles and rubella in Europe: http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topics/diseases-and-conditions/measles-and-rubella/news2/news/2010/16/next-steps-towards-eliminating-measles-and-rubella-in-europe
Presidency of the Council of the European Union:
Hungary European Union Presidency: WHO/Europe contributes to health priorities: http://www.euro.who.int/en/where-we-work/member-states/hungary/sections/news/2012/01/hungary-european-union-presidency-whoeurope-contributes-to-health-priorities2
European Immunization Week 2011:
For more information, please contact:
Dr Zsofia Pusztai
WHO Country Office, Hungary
Tel.: +36 1 3216080