The World Health Assembly has adopted a new global immunization strategy, which it says will save millions of lives every year.  This new life-saving strategy was approved as the World Health Organization (WHO) wrapped up its 10-day annual conference in Geneva.

Over the past 10 days, the 192 member states of the World Health Assembly adopted a number of key resolutions affecting global public health.  They include the adoption of the revised international health regulations, which empower WHO to more rapidly and efficiently tackle global pandemics.  Other important resolutions include the strengthening of the polio eradication campaign, creating a smallpox vaccine reserve and promoting cancer prevention and control strategies.

Governments particularly welcomed the new joint strategy proposed by WHO and the UN Children's Fund to fight vaccine-preventable diseases.  They kill more than two million people every year, most of them children. 

Director of UNICEF's European Bureau, Philip O'Brien, says the Global Immunization Strategy (GIVS) aims to immunize more people against more diseases, to introduce a range of newly available vaccines and technologies and to provide a number of critical health interventions with immunization.

"If we can link through GIVS the immunization programs to the delivery of strengthened health services to all members of the community, then we will also help address the other big causes of child mortality,? he said.  ?Most young kids die from either malaria or respiratory infections.  We and WHO will push the distribution through strengthened health services of things like malaria bed nets of improved basic diagnostic services for kids who are ill." 

The Head of WHO's Polio Eradication Campaign, David Heymann, says the new strategy aims to seek out people in the most inaccessible areas.  Under the new plan, he says health workers will do whatever it takes to get to every house.

"Some health workers travel on bicycle, on motor bikes, whatever is appropriate in their area.  Some walk.  Most of them walk and many go by dug out canoe to the villages that are on the rivers or inaccessible areas?. And, all that remains then is for the health center to pull the vaccines out from the central store, to keep them cold and to provide their workers with the vaccination cold boxes and the equipment that is necessary to move out on their transport systems to get the vaccines into the mouths or the arms of the children," he added. 

Over the next five years, WHO says it hopes to provide 80 percent immunization coverage to those who are poor, socially marginalized and living in remote rural areas and urban slums.