Officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) are celebrating World Immunization Week 2016 this week, as a way to encourage more people to get vaccinated, while also presenting steps that countries can take to close the immunization gap to meet 2020 vaccination targets set forth in the 2012 Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP).

The goals of the GVAP are to: to have 90% worldwide coverage for 3 doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine; to reduce measles mortality; to eliminate rubella; to eliminate tetanus in 59 countries for pregnant women and neonates; and to eradicate polio globally.

The final goal of the GVAP is on-track, which is, reaching more unvaccinated people of low and middle-income countries and providing them with pneumococcal conjugate, rotavirus, human papillomavirus, rubella and inactivated polio vaccines. WHO reports that 86 of the 90 target countries succeeded in this goal.

According to a video posted on the World Immunization Week 2016 website, immunizations protect against 2 to 3 million deaths annually. However, 1 in 5 children, or 18.7 million infants are missing immunizations worldwide, resulting in 1.5 million preventable deaths from diseases every year, including tetanus, diphtheria and measles. 

WHO officials plan to increase vaccination coverage by providing guidelines to countries where children may have missed routine immunizations, especially in areas of conflict, emergency or where vaccination rates are below 80%. In addition, WHO officials encourage vaccine records to be checked whenever a child or adult visits a health facility for any reason, and for appropriate missing immunizations be given at that time.

A WHO toolkit found on the World Immunization Week’s website includes information for medical staff, partners, the media, and the public, visual materials and online resources, and details on organizing events to assist this important campaign for universal vaccination. The World Immunization Week activities come on the heels of a similar initiative in the United States, National Infant Immunization Week.

Reference

World Health Organization. World Immunization Week 2016: Close the immunization gap Web site. Accessed April 23, 2016. Source code.

This article originally appeared on Infectious Disease Advisor