European Immunization Week (EIW) is a regional initiative, led and coordinated by the WHO Regional Office for 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 are very diverse and include training sessions for health care workers, dissemination of informational materials, workshops, press conferences and roundtable discussions with political decision-makers.
All activities use the power of advocacy and targeted communication to raise awareness of, and advance equitable access to, the benefits of immunization.
Why is EIW important?
The widespread implementation of immunization programmes over the past 30 years has led to remarkable achievements, including certification of the European Region as polio free in 2002 and a 90% decline in measles cases.
However, more needs to be done. Gaps in immunization coverage persist in all countries. Success of immunization programmes in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases has led many parents and health professionals to no longer fear these diseases, and public confidence in vaccines has been affected by misinformation regarding the necessity and safety of vaccination. Also, in times of competing health priorities, political commitment towards immunization can be threatened.
It is imperative that individuals across the Region receive accurate, balanced and understandable information about the risks of diseases and the benefits of vaccination. 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 of measles and rubella emphasize the responsibility we all share to keep vaccine-preventable diseases under control. By acknowledging that every child deserves a healthy start in life, countries can use the momentum of European Immunization Week to increase awareness of the importance of vaccination and to strengthen their immunization systems.
Who is involved?
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, 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 subnational level.
What is the focus?
The goal of European Immunization Week is to increase vaccination coverage. A special focus is placed on activities to reach vulnerable or underserved groups. The slogan “Prevent. Protect. Immunize.” promotes the core message that immunizing every child is vital to prevent diseases and to protect life. In some years and countries, the campaign may focus on a specific theme, such as immunization throughout the life course, elimination of measles and rubella or closing the immunization gap.
To learn more about EIW, visit the WHO/Europe web site.