The immunization gap

Ian Frazer (Creator of HPV Vaccine)

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immunization is a process whereby a person is made resistant to an infectious disease typically by administration of vaccine [Figure 1]. It has been agreed generally that immunization is an effective tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases. Statistically, it is estimated that immunization avert between 2 and 3 million deaths every year. However, this wonderful impact of immunization is now at risk as there have been reports of vaccination rates falling resulting in increased number of new group of children who are not immunized. In most cases, decisions not to be immunized are multi-factorial with media and myths playing important roles. In this issue of Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, Hamanta et al., in a community-based cross-sectional analysis found that of the 420 children in the study, 270 were fully immunized while 109 and 41 were partially immunized and unimmunized, respectively. To the authors, the immunization status of the children can be linked to the educational background and socioeconomic status of the mothers.

Figure 1: A child been immunized against Polio

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The immunization gap is becoming wider and hence the need for pragmatic approach to solve this problem. Already Polio is making a comeback in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan due to apathy against the Polio vaccine. What should be done? Another study in this issue of ATMPH by Babu et al., reported of a catch-up effort to address the gap. The authors concluded that catch-up campaign can help fill the gap in settings with poor immunization services. This can be an ideal answer but we need to also, at the global level (GAVI Alliance is showing us the way), revise our vaccine regulations, fight for more funding and build more partnerships, and finally there is the urgent need for us to address the public perception of vaccine. Recently, it was reported that some are refusing Polio vaccine because they believe it is useless and makes children sterile. I have been to Kano in Nigeria a couple of times and my little curiosity made me conclude that most of my siblings there believe that polio is an act of God so no man should try to intervene. These are some of the myths we need to tackle.

Time is not on our side. Infectious diseases are becoming more sophisticated. We need the will, both scientific and political to address the immunization. As a firm believer of immunization, I hope we do act fast. Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa according to FORBE, has some wonderful advice for us all: “There is no reason for any one of us not assists in keeping our people healthy” . Mr. Dangote.


Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.105120

Figures

[Figure 1]

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