Immunisation experts have expressed worry over what they described as stagnation of immunisation coverage in Sub-Sahara Africa, saying in the past five years, the coverage has stagnated at 72 per cent.
This, the experts said exposes populations to vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks while urging African countries to strengthen their routine immunisation.
According to a statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global immunisation experts attending the biannual Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) meeting, have emphasized the importance of increased domestic investment in disease surveillance and the need for community engagement to drive vaccine deployment during outbreaks.
“The regional experts’ meeting presented a unique opportunity to assess current and future immunisation needs in Africa. We have mapped out what can and must be done to secure the future of millions of children on this continent,” said RITAG Chair, Professor Helen Rees.
The statement said in Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 31 million children, younger than 5 years, suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases every year while more than half a million of them die due to lack of access to the vaccines they needed.
“By vaccinating children, we are doing more than preventing diseases and saving lives. We are also ensuring that children get the education they deserve and returning valuable time to their families because they no longer need to make long hospital visits. Vaccinations also release scarce government funds,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
According to WHO data, illness and deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases cost Sub-Saharan Africa US$13 billion each year, funding that could be channelled towards strengthening health systems and building economies.
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