Panafrican News Agency

WHO deplores low vaccination coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – Over the past five years, the vaccination coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa has stagnated at 72%, exposing populations to diseases avoidable with vaccines and epidemics, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report made available to PANA in Dakar on Thursday.

The report was made by world vaccination experts, at the quarterly meeting of the regional technical consultative group on vaccination (RITAG) in Brazzaville, Congo, during which they underlined the importance to improve national investments in the surveillance of diseases and the need for community commitment to stimulate the deployment of vaccines during epidemic outbreaks.

‘’The regional experts meeting offered a unique opportunity to evaluate the current and future needs in terms of vaccination in Africa. We defined what can be and must be done to ensure the future of millions of children on the continent’’, said RITAG chairperson, Professor Helen Rees.

According to WHO, about 31 million children aged less than five years in Sub-Saharan Africa, suffer every year from diseases avoidable through vaccination, more than half a million among them die because of the lack of vaccines.

The organisation says that illnesses and deaths due to diseases avoidable by vaccination cost Sub-Saharan Africa US$13 billion per year, adding that the financing could be directed to the strengthening of the health systems and economic growth.

The regional technical consultative group on vaccination has stressed the need for governments emphasise the surveillance of diseases in a bid to make sure that the progress made in the fight against the avoidable diseases through vaccinations are not in vain.

‘’The fact that most Sub-Saharan African countries continue depending on foreign funds to finance vaccination shows the job that remains to be done’’, said Dr Richard Mihigo, programme director for vaccination and vaccine development at WHO Regional Office for Africa.

‘’Governments have a key role to play to fill the financing gaps and see to it that the vaccination programmes remain robust and vigilant,’’ he added.

-0- PANA AAS/JSG/MSA/AR 24Jan2019