African Vaccination Week: Community Involvement Imperative For National Development – WHO

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By Mayowa ADENIRAN

The World health organization has said the theme for this year’s vaccination week is “Vaccines bring us closer.” According to the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the theme serves as a reminder that the power of vaccines to fight disease, save lives and bring us closer to a healthier, safer and more prosperous future.
Matshidiso further notes that significant gains in immunization have been made in recent years.
In an historic milestone, the WHO African Region was certified free of wild poliovirus in 2020 where over 40 African countries also eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus.
The WHO regional director, said “Vaccinations are also having a huge beneficial impact on other diseases like cervical cancer, hepatitis and Ebola”.

“So far, 19 African countries have achieved the benchmark of at least 90% coverage of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine”.
Below is the full text of Dr Matshidiso Moeti brief to mark the African vaccination week.
The routine immunization coverage at the regional level has stalled in the past 10 years at between 70 and 75 per cent.
An estimated nine million children in the Region miss out on life-saving vaccines every year. Eighty per cent of these children are living in 10 countries. Among them Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia account for almost 60% of those missed. This affects not only children in hard-to-reach rural areas but also those in urban communities.

Since January 2020, eight African countries have reported major measles outbreaks, with tens of thousands of cases, largely due to low routine immunization coverage and delayed vaccination drives.

To ensure routine immunization reaches every child, there are health system challenges that need to be addressed. These include inadequate infrastructure, transport and power supply for refrigerators, limited numbers of frontline health workers, as well as stockouts of vaccines and other essentials, like syringes.
In 2017, African Heads of State committed to invest in enhancing universal access to immunization, through the Addis Declaration on Immunization.
Building on this, integrated action is needed to expand access to immunization as part of primary health care systems. This should be backed by a sufficient, trained workforce, strong surveillance and health information systems, and national leadership, management and coordination.

Communities should be engaged to improve health literacy and increase demand for vaccines, with special attention on reaching the poorest and most marginalized groups.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the enormous value of vaccines.

Through the COVAX facility, the African Vaccination Acquisition Task Team and bilateral arrangements, over 34 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to African countries.

In the face of global supply constraints, the renewed momentum around strengthening pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent offers the potential to sustainably assure access to vaccines in future. I ask that we work together to fast track this.
“So, this African Vaccination Week, let’s ensure vaccination retains its place in national development and security agendas”. He stated.

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