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UNICEF answers key questions for #VaccinesWork World Immunization Week

27 April 2019, MVT 10:32
A health professional prepares to vaccinate a child. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED / MIHAARU
27 April 2019, MVT 10:32

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has recently increased efforts to spread awareness on the importance of immunization, following a drop in vaccination rates.

As the organisation marks World Immunization Week 2019 from April 24 – 30, UNICEF Maldives highlighted that national vaccination coverage has scientifically dropped since 2009, putting children in danger of contracting various vaccine-preventable diseases.

As part of its advocacy efforts, UNICEF has shared a special Q&A on the #VaccinesWork campaign, explaining everything from the significance of the campaign to how vaccines work.

What is World Immunization Week?

World Immunization Week (WIW) is celebrated every year to raise awareness around the benefits of immunization. It is a key global campaign to re-focus attention on the importance of vaccinating children against disease. The theme for WIW 2019, which is commemorated from 24 to 30 April, is ‘Protected together: Vaccines work’.

What is the #VaccinesWork campaign?

#VaccinesWork has long been used on social media to bring together immunization advocates to promote the benefits and importance of vaccinating children against disease. This year, UNICEF is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to encourage even greater reach. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute USD$1 USD to UNICEF for every like or share of social media posts using the hashtag #VaccinesWork in April, up to USD$1 million, to ensure all children get the life-saving vaccines they need.

The campaign will run during World Immunization Week, which will honour Vaccine Heroes – from parents and community members to health workers and innovators.

What is the objective of #VaccinesWork campaign and who is your target audience?

Our primary target audiences are parents and parents-to-be. We are also targeting the wider social media-engaged public through this campaign. Communication and advocacy activities around #VaccinesWork will aim to mobilize the social media engaged public to build positive sentiment around immunization while raising awareness about the safety and importance of vaccinations for among parents and others looking for reliable information on the topic.

The key objectives of the campaign are:

- To raise awareness around vaccine safety and the importance of vaccination amongst parents and the engaged public on social media.

- To support those who want to play a meaningful role by offering them a way to spread the word and take action.

- To demonstrate the value of vaccines, inspiring widespread support for vaccination​, including through increased resources for vaccines supply

Which countries will participate in the campaign?

This is a global campaign, and we expect several countries and regions to participate and get behind it. A campaign hero video, under embargo until 24 April, has been translated into 16 different languages to enable countries to contextualize the campaign in their national markets. A number of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors and over 31 parental social media influencers from 10 countries - with significant reach amongst parents - will support the campaign. They will disseminate the hero video, encourage their audiences to use #VaccinesWork as well as sharing their own stories and information on the importance of vaccines.

How will you use the money raised through the activation of #VaccinesWork?

The resources raised through this campaign will be used to support UNICEF’s global immunization efforts including those focused at increasing demand for immunization and vaccines supply to ensure the right of every child to immunization is fully realized with priority given to the most disadvantaged.

When will UNICEF receive the funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?

The funds will be sent to UNICEF in three instalments over the course of 2019 and 2020.

What will happen if you don’t reach your goal of one million reach?

We are confident that we will reach our goal. We will leverage UNICEF’s 54 million followers across the organization’s global social media network. We are mobilizing our country offices, National Committees and our Goodwill Ambassadors – all with a wide reach of audiences to support the campaign.

What do you want to tell parents?

UNICEF wants to encourage more parents to vaccinate their children. We want parents to understand that #VaccinesWork and save lives. Vaccines protect children against diseases that can cause serious harm or death. If children are not immunized, highly contagious diseases such as measles, diphtheria and polio, which were once wiped out in many countries, will come back. We also want parents to make an informed decision about vaccination. To do this, we asked parents and social media followers what they wanted to know about vaccination and one of our immunization experts responded to these questions in this video. To learn more about immunization and the campaign please visit https://uni.cf/vaccines-work.

What is the central message of your campaign video and related illustrated assets?

We want to emphasize the life-saving power of vaccines through our campaign video and illustrated animations and posters. The campaign video “Protect your child from Danger” is based on the insight that children, by their very nature, are often fearless, and as a result, are constantly putting themselves in danger. While we can’t prevent all the dangerous situations that children expose themselves to, vaccination prevents them from getting infectious diseases.

The video, accompanying illustrated content, and other materials (outlined below) will be disseminated through UNICEF’s social media channels during World Immunization Week (24-30 April).

- A video of a UNICEF expert answering questions about vaccination received from UNICEF’s global social media audiences, which will be featured on UNICEF’s parenting portal: https://uni.cf/vaccine-FAQs

- Stories and portraits of parents, nurses, doctors, health advocates who can be seen as role models by other parents, adults and children.

- Video and photography of vaccination drives in Mali, the Philippines and Ukraine and more.

What is UNICEF doing to vaccinate children?

UNICEF envisions a world where no child dies from a preventable cause and all children reach their full potential in health and well-being. That is why UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries, immunizing millions of children every year, focusing on the most disadvantaged. UNICEF is the world’s largest buyer and supplier of vaccines and in 2018, UNICEF procured over 2.35 billion doses of vaccines. Between 2000 and 2017, UNICEF worked with governments and partners to vaccinate more than 2 billion children around the world.

We are on the ground wherever children need us, including in places affected by conflict and natural disasters. In 2017 UNICEF and partners ensured that 19.2 million children were vaccinated against measles in places dealing with humanitarian emergencies. But more needs to be done: approximately 20 million children worldwide are not fully immunized, leaving them at risk of dangerous diseases. We want governments, health workers, and parents to take action to ensure that every child is protected through immunization.

Parents’ most frequently ask questions about vaccines

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are products that are usually given in childhood to protect against serious, often deadly diseases. By stimulating your body’s natural defenses, they prepare your body to fight the disease faster and more effectively.


How do vaccines work?

Vaccines help your immune system fight infections more efficiently by sparking your immune response to specific diseases. Then, if the virus or bacteria ever invades your body in the future, your immune system will already know how to fight it.
 

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are very safe. Your child is far more likely to be hurt by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine. All vaccines go through rigorous safety testing, including clinical trials, before they are approved for the public. Countries will only register and distribute vaccines that meet rigorous quality and safety standards.
 

Why should I vaccinate my child?

Vaccines save lives. Measles vaccines alone are estimated to have prevented over 21 million deaths between 2000 and 2017

Vaccines will help protect your child against diseases that can cause serious harm or death, especially in people with developing immune systems like infants.

It’s important to vaccinate your child. If not, highly contagious diseases such as measles, diphtheria and polio, which were once wiped out in many countries, will come back.
 

Can my baby handle all of these vaccines?

Yes. Many parents worry that multiple vaccines will overload their child’s immune system. But children are exposed to hundreds of germs every day. In fact, a common cold or sore throat will put a greater burden on your child’s immune system than vaccines.

But these diseases are not present in my community. Why do I still need to vaccinate my child?

Yes. Although the diseases may be eliminated in your country or region, our increasingly interconnected world means that these diseases could spread from areas where they are still present.

What is herd immunity?

If enough people in your community are immunized against a certain disease, you can reach something called herd immunity. When this happens, diseases can’t spread easily from person to person because most people are immune. This provides a layer of protection against the disease even for those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants.

Herd immunity also prevents outbreaks by making it difficult for the disease to spread. The disease will become more and more rare, sometimes even disappearing entirely from the community.
 

Can a vaccine cause my baby to get sick?

Vaccines are extremely safe and serious side effects are rare. Almost all sickness or discomfort after vaccination is minor and temporary, such as a soreness at the injection site or mild fever. These can often be controlled by taking over-the-counter pain medication as advised by a doctor or applying a cold cloth to the injection site. If parents are concerned, they should immediately contact their doctor or health care provider.

Several studies and research have confirmed that there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism.

What diseases do vaccines prevent?

Vaccines protect your child against serious illnesses like polio, which can cause paralysis; measles, which can cause brain swelling, blindness or even death; and tetanus, which can cause painful muscle contractions and difficulty eating and breathing, especially in newborns. To learn more on vaccines and the diseases they protect against, please visit https://www.unicef.org/parenting/health/parents-frequently-asked-questions-vaccines

Can I delay the vaccine schedule?

One of the best ways you can protect your child is to follow the recommended vaccine schedule in your country. Any time you delay a vaccine, you’re increasing your child’s vulnerability to disease.
 

Can I let my child get the chickenpox instead of getting the vaccine?

Although chickenpox is a mild disease that many parents will remember from childhood (the vaccine was introduced in 1995), some children will develop serious cases with complications that can be fatal or cause permanent disabilities. The vaccine eliminates the risk of complications from the disease, and prevents children from infecting their siblings, friends and classmates.
 

What is the recommended vaccine schedule?

Immunization schedules vary by country depending on which diseases are most prevalent. You can find an overview of the recommended vaccines and approximate dates from your local health centre, doctor or your government’s Ministry of Health.

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