News |

NCIRS celebrates World Immunization Week 2024

A message from Professor Kristine Macartney, NCIRS Director

Immunisation prevents over 3.5 million deaths in children under 5 years – and even more across the lifespan – globally each year. By any standard, that is a remarkable achievement – and World Immunization Week offers an opportunity to pause, take stock and celebrate it.

The theme of World Immunization Week 2024 Humanly possible: Saving lives through immunization  – emphasises the critically high stakes involved in this work.

This year, the event also marks the 50-year anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) Expanded Programme on Immunization – now known as the Essential Programme on Immunisation (EPI) – which has been a significant locus of global immunisation activity and progress since its establishment in 1974.

The EPI combats and aims to prevent a wide range of communicable diseases through immunisation. The original focus of the program was protecting children against six childhood illnesses – tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio and measles. Today, 13 vaccines are recommended across the life-course under the EPI, along with 17 additional vaccines with context-dependent recommendations.

A genuinely global endeavour, the EPI is fuelled by the conviction that all people – regardless of their geographic location or socioeconomic status – should have access to essential vaccines.

Thanks to the EPI, every country in the world now has a national immunisation program.  


Immunisation is one of the greatest success stories in health care. It unfolds through the collective efforts of communities, health workers, researchers, governments, non-government organisations and countless others who have worked – and continue to work – to ensure all people have access to life-saving vaccines.

Yet despite tremendous progress over the past 50 years, much remains to be done. Improving immunisation coverage, particularly in children who have not received any vaccination – commonly known as zero-dose children – remains an urgent global health priority.

Almost all zero-dose children live in low- and middle-income countries – and around one in five children around the world still lack access to essential vaccines.

Global coverage rates declined during the COVID-19 pandemic – including in Australia – as health systems were stretched to their limits. Vaccine mis- and disinformation has also proliferated. The need to reverse these trends represents a significant, complex challenge for the immunisation community.

NCIRS is helping address these and other challenges by advancing immunisation policy and practice, both in Australia and by working collaboratively with countries in the Indo-Pacific region through our global health program.

For more than 25 years, NCIRS has made key contributions to strategic priorities identified in Australia’s National Immunisation Strategy – for example, in supporting the introduction of new vaccines, measuring immunisation coverage, monitoring vaccine safety, providing effective, accurate communication about immunisation and much more. Using these capabilities, we now work in partnership with over a dozen countries in our region.

This World Immunization Week, NCIRS acknowledges the diligent work of the global immunisation community – of which NCIRS is a proud member – and urges all immunisation stakeholders to remember that, despite setbacks and challenges, our ambitious goals are ‘humanly possible’.

Professor Kristine Macartney, NCIRS Director