World Health Organization & UNICEF: Vaccination “A Child’s Right”

China Vaccines Safe; “Gaps” in National Vaccine Program

News release

Every child deserves a life free from disease that are preventable with vaccination says the World Health Organization (WHO). Equally parents must have confidence that the vaccination program is safe and effective. In China the national vaccination program is fast approaching world-class, according to WHO, with safety of the child and peace-of-mind for parents a top priority. Yet there remain critical gaps in national vaccination coverage that need to be addressed.

China’s immunization program has contributed to the achievement of many goals, including the elimination of polio in 2000 and reducing by 90% chronic hepatitis B infection among young children. After polio re-emerged in 2011 following an importation of poliovirus, China stopped the outbreak in record time. China eliminated neonatal and maternal tetanus in 2012, and licensed the world’s first hepatitis E vaccine the same year.

“China has made great progress in its national immunization program, so parents can be assured the program is safe and effective” said Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO representative in China. “Yet there are still critical coverage gaps such as children of migrant workers or adults who didn’t benefit from vaccines during their childhood.”

Immunization prevents illness, disability and death from many diseases such as polio, hepatitis B, measles, rubella, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, Japanese encephalitis, cervical cancer, pneumonia and meningitis and others.

To achieve world-best standards, China needs to address gaps in its immunization schedule – namely by adding Haemophilus influenzae Type b (Hib), pneumococcal conjugate (PCV), and rotavirus vaccines to the national program for children. Further, many children “fall through the cracks” – especially those of migrant workers – and miss out on access to their essential vaccinations. More needs to be done to reach these at-risk populations, and in doing so to protect against the re-emergence of dangerous, yet entirely preventable diseases such as polio and tetanus. Finally, the WHO recommends vaccinations for adults. Currently, there are no vaccine recommendations for adults in China. For example, ensuring that healthcare workers are vaccinated or immune to hepatitis B, measles, and rubella would help protect them from these diseases as they care for patients, and also help stop chains of transmission of these viruses. Yet many adults are at risk because they missed out on vaccination for particular diseases as children. Unvaccinated adults also create risks to the broader community as they are potential ‘reservoirs’ for outbreaks, as the recent measles outbreak in Beijing demonstrates.

The last week of April each year is marked by WHO and partners as World Immunization Week. This year it is held from 24-30 April 2015. This year’s campaign focuses on closing the immunization gap and reaching equity in immunization levels as outlined in the Global Vaccine Action Plan - a framework to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through universal access to vaccines for people in all communities.

China Produces and Exports World-Class Vaccines

Last April China’s National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for vaccines, the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) and the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), was evaluated by WHO experts who determined that the NRA met or exceeded all of the WHO criteria for functioning at international standards of excellence.

“China is a world-leader in vaccine delivery, not only at home but overseas as well,” said Dr Schwartländer. “Vaccine production is a complex process necessitating the highest standards of safety and quality. As a result of our evaluation last year, WHO is confident in the quality, safety and effectiveness of vaccines that are made in China.”

The vaccines produced in China are being put to good use in the region. This month China announced plans to protect children in Laos from Japanese encephalitis by use of a Chinese-made vaccine, with approximately 1.5 million Lao children set to benefit from access to this China-developed vaccine, which prevents the spread of this dangerous mosquito-borne virus.

About the World Health Organization

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

For more information please contact

Ms WU Linlin
WHO China Office
Office Tel: +86 10 6532 7191