Brazzaville, Congo (PANA) - The African Region of the World Health Organization (WHO) will observe the first African Vaccination Week (AVW) in the last week of April 2011, the Region said in a statement made available to PANA here Monday.
The establishment of the week is in response to a resolution adopted by Ministers of Health at the 60th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in 2010 “to institutionalize an annual African Vaccination Week for sustaining advocacy, expanding community participation and improving immunization service delivery,” the statement said.
“The goal of the African Vaccination Week initiative is to strengthen immunization programmes in the Region by drawing attention to, and increasing awareness of the importance, the need and the right of all persons to be protected against vaccine-preventable
diseases,” it quoted WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, as saying.
Dr Sambo explained that the vaccination week initiative would build on existing efforts such as the celebration of mother and child health days or similar initiatives in Member States in order to galvanize regional action to reach every child with targeted, evidence-based,
high impact interventions.
Such interventions would aim at accelerating progress towards the attainment of the 4th Millennium Development Goal (MDG4) -- to reduce child mortality by two-thirds between 2000 and 2015.
As at 2010, only six Member States in the Region were on track to achieving MDG4, due partially to poor or inadequate access to immunization, one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, and one which is widely recognized as critical to achieving MDG4.
Dr Sambo illustrated the challenge of access to immunization services with measles, saying that although mortality due to the disease in the African Region was reduced by 89% between 2000 and 2008; in 2009, an estimated 3.6 million children were not reached at all by immunization services while approximately 6 million did not get all the recommended vaccinations needed to protect them.
Suboptimal routine immunization coverage at district level as well as the failure to reach a significant number of children during supplementary immunization activities in countries therefore continue to threaten recent gains made in both measles elimination and polio eradication in the region.
Dr Sambo maintained that immunization was the intervention of choice, not only because it protects children from vaccine-preventable diseases, but also because it serves as a platform to deliver other life-saving interventions such as vitamin A supplementation, distribution of insecticide-treated nets for protection against malaria and de-worming medicines for intestinal worms, among other commodities.
The Regional Director urged Member States to provide the needed leadership for the AVW initiative by setting up national vaccination week planning committees to plan and mobilize resources for activities and collaborate with local partners, including the media, in ensuring their success.
-0- PANA PR/SEG 7March2011