The European Immunization Week (EIW) is a regional initiative, led and coordinated by WHO/Europe and implemented by Member States of the European Region. For one week in April, countries across the Region unite under the EIW slogan – Prevent. Protect. Immunize. – and carry out activities to inform and engage key target audiences and to address challenges regarding immunization. These activities include training sessions for health care workers, dissemination of informational materials, workshops, press conferences and round table discussions with political decision makers, among other things.
These activities all contribute to the overarching goal of EIW, which is to help Member States advance plans to ensure universal immunization and to promote vaccination by using the power of advocacy and targeted communication.
To learn more about EIW, visit the web site.
Why is EIW important?
The widespread implementation of immunization programmes over the past 30 years has led to remarkable achievements. The WHO European Region was certified polio free in 2002 and in the past decade measles cases in the Region have been reduced by more than 90%.
However, more needs to be done. Nearly 700 000 people in the European Region do not receive basic vaccination and vulnerable or hard-to-reach non-immunized groups exist in all countries. Ironically, because immunization controls most infectious diseases, many parents and health professionals no longer fear these diseases. On the contrary, public confidence in vaccines is affected by groups, web sites or the press questioning the necessity and safety of vaccination. Also, in times of competing health priorities, the political commitment towards immunization has decreased.
Strong political support for immunization must be maintained or the Region risks the re-emergence of highly contagious diseases, causing illness, disability and death, and placing a considerable burden on health care systems. Recent outbreaks emphasize the Regional responsibility we all share to keep vaccine-preventable diseases under control.
Immunization saves millions of lives every year and this public health success story must be sustained. It is imperative that countries across the Region provide accurate, balanced and understandable information about the risks of diseases and the benefits of vaccination.
By acknowledging that every child deserves a healthy start in life, countries can use the momentum of the European Immunization Week to increase awareness of the importance of vaccination and to strengthen their immunization systems.
Who is involved?
The European Immunization Week is a Region-wide initiative, led and coordinated by the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Countries from across the Region are actively engaged in the European Immunization Week (EIW), using the initiative to highlight immunization through targeted advocacy and communication activities, as well as the vaccination of high-risk groups.
A range of important immunization programme partners support this initiative and provide countries with assistance for the implementation of activities at the national and sub-national level.
What is the focus?
The goal of the European Immunization Week is to increase vaccination coverage. A special focus is placed on activities to reach vulnerable or hard-to-reach groups. The slogan Prevent. Protect. Immunize. promotes the core message that immunizing every child is vital to prevent diseases and to protect life.
Why create a campaign site for EIW?
European Immunization Week brings together stakeholders from dozens of Member States and unites their important immunization-related work under the banner of EIW. But it has proven challenging to communicate the events and activities of EIW in real time, and the sharing of this information has generally relied on post-EIW reports. These reports, while useful, do not allow stakeholders and participants to put their activities in the broader context of the Regional initiative as it happens.
The EIW campaign site creates a space for all EIW stakeholders and other interested parties where information about the week can be shared immediately. Instead of waiting for the post-EIW report, EIW participants can now follow the week’s activities in real time. They can also interact with other participants throughout the week, sharing experiences and lessons learned from their individual EIW activities. This real-time interaction gives immunization programme managers and others involved in EIW the opportunity to make real-time adjustments and revisions to strategy based upon what they learn from the experiences of others. In this way, the campaign site can help increase the overall effectiveness of EIW activities across the Region.
One of the strengths of EIW is the range and variety of activities implemented by the Member States. The EIW campaign site takes this variety of experience and makes it quickly and easily accessible to all participants, providing a tangible connection between each country’s EIW activities and the initiative as a whole.