The European Immunization Week's general slogan "Prevent. Protect. Immunize" is more relevant than ever in times of globalization and migration. It is a political and structural challenge to give as many people as possible access to vaccination. But even the best care is of no use if the individual does not recognize his or her duty to society.
When it comes to vaccines, parents and carers in particular must bear responsibility for their children.
This year's European Immunization Week aims to highlight both the individual's right to vaccination protection and the obligation to protect others from possible infection. In order to stem the spread of infectious diseases and, above all, to protect the most vulnerable groups in society - infants, seniors and people with chronic diseases or a weak immune system - everyone should endeavour to regularly refresh their vaccination protection. Parents and carers in particular must bear responsibility for their children in this respect.
This year's EIW will take place from 23 to 29 April 2018 with the aim of raising awareness, especially among carers, parents and employees in the health professions, and thus increasing vaccination rates. Nevertheless, policy-makers have to be involved as well so that the underlying structures can be changed. Furthermore, the topic of vaccination is to remain present in the media and thus reach as many people as possible. The regional program and campaigns are organised by each European Member State.
Since the first European Immunization Week in 2005, this initiative has become a recognised annual event. It is mainly supported by the Member States of the European Region. The respective European health ministries, WHO country offices, partner organisations, professional and parent associations and regional health institutions are also involved – as well as regional policy-makers. The EIW’s implementation is also supported by a number of other partners. These include the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Within the member states, the initiative is supported by the ministers and ambassadors.
Although progress has been made in implementing the European vaccination action plan, there are still great disparities within the European region that need to be eliminated. Still in 2016, every fifteenth infant did not receive the first measles vaccination, every twenty-first did not receive all recommended vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus and mumps. The spread of these diseases can be easily avoided through vaccination.
Vaccinations are the means to prepare the body for an infectious pathogen. A harmless version of a special pathogen is injected into the body so that the immune system reacts with the formation of suitable antibodies. Afterwards, the immune system keeps a kind of "memory" of the intruder, which in future will enable the body to produce enough suitable antibodies when it comes into contact with the dangerous version of the pathogen.
Today there are different types of vaccinations. Firstly, there are oral vaccinations for which attenuated pathogens are injected to the body, one example being polio vaccination. In another type of vaccination, inactive or dead viruses are administered, but they still cause a reaction of the immune system. Immunizations such as tetanus vaccination contain the detoxified version of a toxin. A fourth version uses only components of the viruses or bacteria that activate the immune system.