Statement – Vaccination Must be Maintained During COVID-19 Pandemic to be Effective

Statement by Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, on the occasion of European Immunization Week  2020

We are living through an exceptional time, when every one of us has been called upon to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The COVID-19 situation in the European Region remains very concerning.

I want to take the opportunity of European Immunization Week to reiterate that we must not, especially now, let down our guard on immunizations. Access to vaccines for all has transformed our societies, but it is a public good that must be maintained to be effective, even in difficult times. Our overstretched health systems cannot bear any outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The health and/or economic consequences of this pandemic are affecting everyone. The most vulnerable, who are often left behind by immunization services, should not suffer the added burden of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Measles affected over 100 000 young and old in this Region last year. This virus has not gone. It will resurge again if we do not do everything in our power to stop it.

As 1 of my 4 flagship areas, prioritizing immunization is central to WHO/Europe’s vision for health in the new European Programme of Work. Immunization is crucial to achieving universal health care and the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as being a vital component of our society that assures health security across the Region.

I therefore take this opportunity to also commend all the ministries of health in this Region for heeding our call and doing everything possible to prioritize routine immunization as part of essential health services during this pandemic. And I thank our tireless health-care professionals, dedicated to leaving no one behind in providing health care and delivering vaccination services.

Vaccination is a right and a responsibility, and it is up to all of us to ensure that we are protected together.

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