Home » Vaccines, WHO programs turn 50: preventable diseases have gone from 6 to 20 (but too many geographical disparities remain)

Vaccines, WHO programs turn 50: preventable diseases have gone from 6 to 20 (but too many geographical disparities remain)

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Vaccines, WHO programs turn 50: preventable diseases have gone from 6 to 20 (but too many geographical disparities remain)

diValentina Rorato

World Immunization Week from 24 to 30 April. For the prevention of transmissible diseases there are two other fundamental tools: monoclonal antibodies and breast-feeding

Vaccinating your child is a gesture of generosity towards the little one, but also towards the world population, because achieving herd immunity is essential to guarantee public health and defend the fragile, who cannot be vaccinated. This year the global vaccination programs of the World Health Organization (“Expanded program on immunization”), which began in 1974, turn fifty and have now extended to all countries in the world. And, thanks to this program, the number of diseases preventable with vaccinations has gone from 6 to 20. Unfortunately, however, the differences between countries and continents continue to be significant and serious: in some nations vaccination coverage is over 90%, but more than one million children around the world do not have access to vaccination programs. It is with this data that World Immunization Week 2024 opens, running from 24 to 30 April, which aims to remember the importance of vaccinations: it does so with a special title, “Humanly possible”. because every individual effort can make a difference.

Respiratory syncytial virus

The prevention of communicable diseases is not limited to vaccines. There are two other fundamental tools: monoclonal antibodies and breastfeeding. «Anti-RSV prophylaxis with monoclonal antibodies (palivizumab) reserved for some categories of newborns at risk has been active for some time, but another monoclonal antibody is available (nirsevimab), approved by AIFA in January 2023, capable of protecting, with a single administration, all newborns” recalls Nicola Laforgia, director of the SIN training plan. And precisely the Italian Society of Neonatology, with the Board of the Vaccinal Calendar for Life, the Italian Society of Hygiene, Preventive Medicine and Public Health (SItI), the Italian Society of Paediatrics (SIP), the Italian Federation of Pediatricians (FIMP) and the Italian Federation of General Practitioners (FIMMG) is committed to ensuring that this universal prophylaxis of respiratory syncytial virus diseases is adopted for all newborns by the Government.

Bronchiolitis and other diseases

Respiratory syncytial virus can be dangerous, because it is the primary cause of bronchiolitis, acute respiratory infections, asthmatic bronchitis and asthma in children, adolescents and young adults, but it can also cause exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults and the elderly and interstitial pneumonia with acute respiratory distress syndrome, especially in frail people. Last season alone it caused 28 thousand hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths (of which 1,800 among the over 60s). For all these reasons, the SIN offers the availability of all Italian Neonatologies, in collaboration with the vaccination centers, to implement the administration of monoclonal antibodies to newborns, which must be available in all Regions free of charge.

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The benefits of breast milk

«Vaccinations and antibody prophylaxis are very powerful tools capable of preventing serious pathologies, hospitalizations and the use of the National Health Service, with health and economic benefits. Together with these, we cannot fail to underline the preventive effect that is guaranteed, immediately after birth, by breast milk”, we read in a SIN note, which recalls that breastfeeding transfers maternal antibodies to the child, protecting him and helping him to produce his immune defenses independently. To guide parents in vaccinations, the SIN and the Italian Society of Pediatrics have developed the brochure «Your child… protect him also with vaccinations! It’s never too early”through which you can learn more about the vaccination plan and the diseases preventable with the vaccine.

Vaccination coverage in Italy

The vaccination offer in Italy is based on ten mandatory vaccinations and six strongly recommended ones, including the anti-HPV one, which unfortunately continue to have insufficient coverage. Among the mandatory ones are diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type B and the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and chickenpox (V) vaccine. The latest data from the Higher Institute of Health (ISS), however, show that vaccination coverage against measles has worsened: the first dose is given in 94% of cases for the first administration, the second in 85% and this data may help explain the numerous cases of measles (213) recorded in the first three months of 2024.

April 24, 2024 (modified April 24, 2024 | 4:16 pm)

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