Statements & Speeches

World Immunization Week (Statement)

April 30, 2024

Honourable senators, since 2000, the mortality rate of children under five years old has declined by an incredible 51% globally. As World Immunization Week comes to a close today, we must recognize the role that immunizations have played in reaching this milestone.

Diseases which once affected the lives of millions around the world have been controlled. This year, we are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Canada being certified free of endemic wild polio. This enormous achievement shows how effective vaccine programs are when matched with the resources and the political will necessary to see them through.

Canada has been a long-standing and recognized leader in ensuring that people throughout the world have access to immunizations. Building on our domestic success, Canada was the first country to contribute to the global effort to eliminate polio. As a partner of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — for over 20 years — we have played a critical role in providing the means to vaccinate over 1 billion children and saving the lives of over 17 million people.

Our work is far from over. Here at home, declining rates of vaccination have resulted in an ongoing measles outbreak in Montreal. Measles can be deadly and is extremely contagious but is preventable by a safe and cost-effective vaccine. We must all do more to remind Canadians that vaccines are safe and effective and save lives.

Globally, one in five children are still zero dose or under vaccinated, meaning that they’ve missed out on at least part of their routine immunizations. These children are at risk of having their lives cut short by preventable illnesses, and many of those who survive will have their lives changed forever. Putting an end to the preventable deaths of children is not only our moral duty, but also a concrete commitment under the Sustainable Development Goals.

Colleagues, 2024 brings opportunities to continue our fight against child mortality. This year, the first vaccine against malaria is being deployed to fight a disease that claims a child’s life every minute in Africa. A growing number of countries have committed to vaccinating millions of girls against HPV, undertaking to wipe out a type of cancer for the first time in history.

This year, let us reaffirm our support of immunization and ensure that vaccines reach every child, everywhere.