By Blessing David
The World Health Organization WHO, has continued to call on countries as well as development partners to work asidiously to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination efforts, as well as not ignore the urgent need to strengthen routine immunization efforts.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, made the call today in a message to commemorate the African Vaccination Week that is marked annually in the last week of April, in conjunction with World Immunization Week.
He said the week provides the opportunity to showcase the importance of vaccines in all aspects of lives, and how they protect young and old, against more than 25 vaccine-preventable diseases.
According to him, this year’s theme, “Long Life for All”, highlights the life-saving potential of vaccines for everyone, everywhere even though , in Africa, tens of millions of people are still missing out on some, or all, their scheduled immunizations against diseases that have long been eradicated by vaccines.
WHO explains that even though 480 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Africa to date, making it the biggest vaccine rollout in the history of the continent, only 18.7% of the African population is fully vaccinated hence countries still lagg woefully behind the global average of 58%.
WHO, together with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, World Bank, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has identified 20 priority countries in the WHO African Region for intensified support. Multi-partner country support teams are currently on the ground helping countries with technical and financial resources to ramp up overall and high-priority group COVID-19 vaccination coverage.
According to the Director, since 2020, routine immunization has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 containment measures, leading to tens of millions of infants in Africa missing out on essential childhood vaccinations which includes, Diphtheria, Tetanus toxoid and Pertussis (whooping cough)-containing vaccine, as well as the measles vaccine.
“Earlier this year, a case of wild poliovirus type 1 was recorded in Malawi except for the timely intervention of the government if Malawi This vaccine-preventable disease had been eliminated from the African Region since August 2020. I commend the Government of Malawi for moving swiftly to contain the outbreak, quickly vaccinating 2.7 million children younger than five against the disease”.
According to him, WHO in Africa, therefore urges all countries to ramp up routine immunization and COVID-19 vaccination efforts concurrently, allocating the necessary resources, maintaining routine immunization services in the midst of shift resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as this will yield to more longer life for all.
He enjoined all Africans in this this African Vaccination Week, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as it’s their turn, with a call on all parents to ensure their children’s routine vaccinations are up to date.