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The rates of incidence for dozens of vaccine-preventable diseases last year dropped to a record low in China, thanks to the national immunization program, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
According to the center, the program has expanded from three vaccines against six diseases when it was introduced in 1978 to 14 vaccines against 15 contagious ones now.
Since the early 21st century, vaccination rates for newborns and children in China have remained steady at more than 90 percent.
Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization representative in China, recognized the country"s achievements in preventing more than 4 million deaths through its extensive immunization program over the past 40 years.
During an event last week to mark the annual National Child Vaccination Awareness Day, which falls on April 25 each year, he said that more than 300 million cases of infectious diseases, including polio, diphtheria and measles, had been avoided in China.
Restoring public confidence in vaccines and maintaining a high vaccination rate have emerged as global health issues recently, as an increasing number of countries, including the United States, Italy and the Philippines, have observed increasing or even record-breaking surges of measles in the past two years.
The WHO blamed vaccine hesitancy, meaning reluctance or refusal to take vaccinations on unfounded doubts about their safety and effectiveness, and listed that as one of the major threats to public health this year.
"It is a collective responsibility to support and build trust for a more positive environment for vaccination on and offline," Galea said. "There is no doubt about the profound benefits of vaccines."
According to the China CDC, the country saw no sudden spikes in measles last year, as fewer than 4,000 cases were recorded and only one patient died from it, compared with nearly 9 million measles cases annually at its peak in the 1950s.
Wang Huaqing, chief expert in the immunization program at the China CDC, suggested that public health workers in China can draw lessons from the recent measles outbreaks around the globe and continue to boost national immunization coverage.
"In China, there is room to improve in terms of rounding up the domestic immunization program and further improving the vaccination rate," Wang said.
Public health experts in China have underscored their confidence in the safety and efficacy of domestic vaccines and called for concerted efforts to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases.
Gao Fu, head of the China CDC, reaffirmed that vaccines produced in China are among "the best in the world" and urged the public to maintain confidence in domestically produced vaccines.
"The newly proposed law on vaccine management, currently under review by China"s top legislative body, speaks volume about the country"s determination to establish the most stringent standards and implement the strongest supervision, toughest penalties and accountability in the vaccine sector," he said.
Gao added that recent scandals involving ineffective or fake vaccines in China do not reflect the mainstream quality of domestic vaccines.
"It is imperative for the whole society to restore public confidence in vaccines and the national immunization program," he said.