WHO launches African Vaccination Week

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched the African Vaccination Week (AVW) in Lusaka, Zambia, under the theme ‘’Vaccination, a gift for life.’’ 

According to the WHO’s, website, the event marks the commencement of week-long immunisation activities from April 24 to April 30 across all 47 countries in the WHO African Region. “Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions but many children and adults still do not have access to many life-saving vaccines. 

“It is estimated that about three million children under the age of five years die each year in the African Region and a significant number of these deaths could be prevented by receiving immunisation,’’ the WHO said. The global world body noted that the AVW was designed to strengthen public awareness and demand for immunisation by communities, improve access for high-risk populations and isolated areas in the region. 

It added that the campaign would provide an opportunity to increase demand and utilisation for other lifesaving interventions particularly those targeting women under five. “Countries and stakeholders must raise the awareness of vaccine-preventable diseases, address barriers to vaccination, and make sustained investments to strengthen health systems and achieve universal immunization by 2020,’’ the WHO said. It urged countries in the African Region to reach out to all children during the AVW, adding that priority be given to children of vaccine-hesitant parents in areas that are difficult to access. 

The WHO, which observed that diarrhea and pneumonia were two most common causes of death in African children, recommended the use of rotavirus and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) in its control. It recalled that the rotavirus vaccine and PCV were introduced in Zambia in 2013 in the framework of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD). “Measles, polio, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, meningitis, yellow fever, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, pneumonia and cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus are also preventable diseases through vaccination. 

“It is therefore important for parents to present their infants and children, including adolescents for all routine vaccination schedules,’’ the WHO said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on May 9,  2015.


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