Hesperian Health Guides

Immunization Programs

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 19: Health Care Waste > Immunization Programs

Large numbers of people around the world are protected from diseases such as measles, tetanus, and polio by receiving special injections through immunization (also called vaccination) programs. Immunization programs are often run by international organizations like World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, together with national and local governments, and with the companies that make and sell vaccines.

Young people and their parents line up to get vaccinated by a health worker.

These programs often do not include good plans for disposing of waste. In many cases they leave waste behind to be handled by the communities receiving the immunizations. This often leads to incinerating or burning the wastes in the open, creating health problems for people and their environment.

Immunization programs can take responsibility for waste

A girl and boy wave goodbye to a health worker.

With sufficient planning and support, an immunization program can safely get rid of its waste by:

  • using the same trucks that deliver immunization supplies to carry away waste for treatment and disposal. If it is a regional program, a central waste treatment center might set up an autoclave and safe burial pits.
  • helping communities set up health care waste disposal systems, which can remain long after the immunization program is gone.
  • using new technologies such as immunization guns that produce less waste because they do not use needles or syringes.