Despite the extraordinary scientific progress made over the past century in vaccines, more than 3 million people still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. A disease like measles, for example, for which there has been a vaccine for more than 50 years, kills nearly 90,000 children each year, with children under age five living in poverty especially susceptible to death and disability from the disease.
Every April, the World Health Organization sponsors World Immunization Week to draw attention to the collective action needed to ensure that every person is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. This year’s theme, “Protected Together, #VaccinesWork,” encourages everyone — from governments to advocacy groups, the pharmaceutical industry to the general public — to go further in their efforts to increase immunization coverage around the world to help stop unnecessary deaths from diseases that could be prevented.
As part of its global corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitment, Takeda employees voted in 2016 to support a campaign to help provide measles vaccines to children throughout the world. The company made a 10-year pledge to the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation)’s [email protected] campaign, which helps expand access to life-saving childhood vaccines globally through the United Nations.
In February, 10 Takeda employees from around the company went to Laos to see firsthand the importance of childhood immunization. They witnessed local community challenges and saw the impact this program is making. Laos has one of the highest child mortality rates in Southeast Asia, and increasing immunization coverage against measles and other infectious diseases has been a huge challenge. For instance, health workers struggle to reach babies who are with their parents in remote rice fields, and vaccines must be kept cold, making immunizing babies in rural areas even harder. Partners working in Laos have launched a number of efforts to make it easier for parents to access vaccines and keep their children safe.
“I work in Takeda’s Vaccine Business Unit and applied for this program so I could see first-hand the lifesaving impact of vaccines,” said Peter Lee, part of the Takeda onsite team. “Meeting the families who traveled so far to reach immunization clinics and seeing the difference vaccines are making in their lives is something I will never forget.”
The [email protected] campaign is making a difference, according to the UN Foundation’s [email protected] executive director, Martha Rebour: “The 10-year investment from Takeda moves us closer to our goal of reaching children around the world with the lifesaving measles vaccine. Through Takeda’s support, we will be able to protect millions of children.”
Laos has expanded vaccination in many of its clinics and built a new hospital in its capital that vaccinates 60 children every day. Implementing new technologies and systems, such as sophisticated cold chain, enabled Laos to experience the full benefits of immunization. The community is responding. For example, the Takeda employees who visited said women and children travel long distances to access vaccination clinics, including one held every three months in a Buddhist temple located two hours outside of the capital.
The good news is, more than 85 percent of the Laos population received most routine immunizations in 2017 — up from 65 percent a decade earlier. And expanded immunization has eliminated tetanus in newborns and mothers.
“With a focus on disease prevention for better health in developing and emerging countries, Takeda’s CSR activities address critical global public health needs by working together with partners, such as the UN Foundation. Together, we continue to make the world a healthier place,” said Toshio Tamamuro, CSR Head, Takeda. However, vaccines are not just part of Takeda’s CSR efforts. The company has manufactured and sold vaccines in Japan for more than 70 years, and its global vaccines team is working on tackling some of the world’s most challenging infectious diseases, such as dengue, Zika, norovirus and polio.
During World Immunization Week April 24-30, join the conversation on Twitter at #VaccinesWork or #WIW2018 and help spread the word about the importance of vaccines. Learn more at http://www.who.int/campaigns/immunization-week/2018/.
 “Global Immunization: Worldwide Disease Incidence,” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/global-immunization/diseases-and-vaccines-world-view (15 April 2018).
 “Measles Fact Sheet,” World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/ (15 April 2018).
 “Child Mortality Estimates: Lao People’s Democratic Republic,” UN Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. http://www.childmortality.org/index.php?r=site/graph#ID=LAO_Lao%20People%60s%20Democratic%20Republic (15 April 2018).