By Zayamu Hassan
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has charge countries in Africa to make deliberate efforts to allocate resources and improve immunization and vaccination efforts.
In a statement to mark the African Vaccination Week, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that since year 2020, routine immunization has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 containment measures.
This, according to her, led to tens of millions of infants in Africa missing out on essential childhood vaccinations including Diphtheria, Tetanus toxoid and Pertussis (whooping cough)-containing vaccine, as well as the measles vaccine.
She, therefore, urged all countries to ramp up routine immunization and COVID-19 vaccination efforts concurrently, allocating the necessary resources, stressing that “maintaining routine immunization services, despite the shift of resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years, is more cost-effective, and will lead to longer life for all.”
The immunization week, she explained, “provides the opportunity to showcase the importance of vaccines in all our lives, and how they protect us, young and old, against more than 25 vaccine-preventable diseases.”
While urging Africans to get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, the WHO Regional Director said: “I urge all Africans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as it’s your turn.
“I also call on all parents to ensure their children’s routine vaccinations are up to date. It is the best we can do for ourselves, our families and our communities.”
She regretted that although 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.
This, she said makes Africa to be lagging woefully behind the global average of 58 per cent.
“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,” she said.
The theme for this year’s Vaccination Week is, “Long Life for All”, which highlights the life-saving potential of vaccines for everyone, everywhere.