April 20, 2017
The last week of April is World Immunization Week. Spearheaded by the World Health Organization, this year’s theme is #VaccinesWork.
In today’s whirlwind culture, it’s easy to miss the significance of 2017 in world health efforts. This May marks the official halfway point in the Decade of Vaccines, otherwise known as the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), endorsed by 194 Member States of the World Health Assembly in 2012. The goal of the GVAP is simple but massive: universal access to immunization by 2020, preventing millions of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Over the past year important milestones have been achieved. For example, in 2016 the Americas were declared free of measles. In addition, 2016 saw the least number of polio cases recorded throughout the world. However, according to the World Health Organization, the GVAP is behind schedule on all targets, including measles, rubella, and tetanus.
The importance and urgency of vaccinating populations becomes clear even in largely vaccinated countries like the United States when we encounter something with no known cure, like the Zika virus. In a 2016 post by Dr. John Merrill-Steskal, he calls Zika a “viral epidemic…sweeping into the United States from South America,” with symptoms so mild “many people are not even aware they have been infected.” Babies born to women infected with Zika in early pregnancy have a chance of severe birth defects such as microcephaly, where their heads are much smaller than normal.
With another 5 years to go in the Decade of Vaccine, there are still advances to be made. Even in the U.S., adults lag behind children in vaccination rates. Locally, Kittitas County providers and health advocates do their best to create a positive, informed environment that encourages vaccinations. Progress is made, one person at a time. As for progress in the fight against Zika, Dr. Merrill-Steskal declares, “We need a vaccine, as it will be the ultimate cure.”
Video: The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on the basics of Zika (April 2017)
Managed by Kittitas Valley Healthcare, HealthNews does not provide medical advice. For medical advice, please see your healthcare provider.