World Immunization Week 2021 – Vaccines Bring Us Closer
World Immunization Week is a global initiative organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the last week of April (24-30 April) aiming to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against vaccine preventable diseases. This year’s theme “Vaccines Bring Us Closer” urges greater engagement around immunization globally to promote the importance of vaccination in bringing people together, and improving the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere throughout life. While the world focuses on critically important new vaccines to protect against COVID-19, there remains a need to ensure children not missing out on routine vaccinations during the pandemic, leaving them at risk of serious diseases like measles and polio.
Immunisation is recognized as one of the most successful, safe and cost-effective health interventions and protects millions of people each year globally from serious and often deadly diseases including measles, hepatitis B and even some forms of cancer. In Hong Kong, with the long-established childhood immunisation programme, polio was eradicated locally in 2000 after global smallpox eradication in 1980; while the number of measles and rubella cases reduced drastically from several thousands in the 1980s and 1990s respectively to a low level of less than a hundred in the recent decade.
As recommended by the Scientific Committee on Vaccine-preventable Diseases under the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health (DH), children from birth to primary six should receive different types of vaccines and boosters under the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme to protect them from tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, pneumoccal infection, chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella. To prevent cervical cancer, starting from the 2019/20 school year, eligible female primary school students are provided with human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.
Immunisation and COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, immunisation services in the DH's Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) continue as usual. Vaccination at primary schools will be arranged by the DH's School Immunisation Teams at schools. Delays in vaccination will weaken the protection for the children against relevant infectious diseases. Parents are reminded to maintain up-to-date immunisation for their children for timely protection against infectious diseases. In view of the outbreak of COVID-19, various infection control measures have been enhanced at the MCHCs including temperature screening, requiring visitors to wear masks and advising clients to reduce the number of accompanying family members or friends when attending their appointments to reduce client flow and social contact.
Vaccination is a top priority in our anti-COVID-19 measures. A territory-wide COVID-19 Vaccination Programme is being progressively rolled out in Hong Kong. In addition to personal protection, parents and carers are encouraged to receive COVID-19 vaccination in order to protect children who cannot yet receive COVID-19 vaccines.