First African Vaccination Week to be observed in April 2011
WHO Africa press release
7 March 2011, Brazzaville - In the last week of April 2011, the African Region of the World Health Organization (WHO) will observe the first African Vaccination Week (AVW).
The establishment of the week is in response to a resolution adopted by Ministers of Health at the sixtieth 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 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”, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, said on Monday.
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 inter-ventions.
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 ser-vices while approximately 6 million did not get all the recommended vaccinations needed to pro-tect them.
Suboptimal routine immunization coverage at district level as well as the failure to reach a signifi-cant number of children during supplementary immunization activities in countries therefore con-tinue 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 pro-tects 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 initia-tive 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.
Focus of the African Vaccination Week
The focus of AVW would be on strengthening national immunization programmes in the African Region by raising awareness on the value and importance of immunization, increasing vaccina-tion coverage and uptake of new and existing vaccines while at the same time prioritizing service provision for hard-to-reach areas.
Implementation of the African Vaccination Week
The implementation of the AVW will build on the existing implementation framework of mater-nal and child health initiatives in the African Region.
Platforms already exist within the region which can leverage country support for the African Vac-cination Week initiative. These include high level bodies like the African Union and Regional Economic Communities. These bodies already work towards the achievement of the MDGs and are uniquely placed to contribute to successful implementation of the African Vaccination Week.
With strong government leadership and the effective collaboration between WHO, UNICEF and other key partners including bilateral and multilateral organizations, Non-Governmental Organi-zations and civil, the African Vaccination Week is expected to contribute to success in reducing child morbidity and mortality in the region.
For more information please contact:
Technical contact: Dr Deo Nshimirimana, Tel: + 47 241 39203
Media contact: AFRO Communications Team, Tel: +47-241-39378/ 39420/39352/39382