SAMA urges South Africans to vaccinate during African Vaccination Week

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The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says both adults and children should be immunised during African Vaccination Week, which runs from 24-30 April. African Vaccination Week coincides with World Immunization Week which this year will be commemorated with the hashtag #VaccinesWork.

This theme is aimed at raising awareness about the importance of full immunisation throughout life.

“Statistics show vaccines do work and it is imperative that adults and children are properly immunised. SAMA stands firmly behind these celebrations which aim to raise awareness and increase the number of vaccinations throughout the country,” says Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of SAMA.

Since 2000 the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has been working in public-private partnerships such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, and the World Bank to increase access to immunisation in 73 poor countries. 

The results from these partnerships are that the average child mortality in GAVI-supported countries fell from 76 deaths/1000 live births in 2010, to 63 deaths/l1000 live births in 2015. GAVI supported the vaccination of 277 million children by the end of 2015. 

African leaders recognised the importance of immunisation and pledged their support through the Immunise Africa 2020 Declaration. The declaration, launched on 8 May 2014, supports the joining of Africa’s leaders to invest in the health of Africa’s next generation. This joint action is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals that call for “access to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines for all” by 2030. 

In 2017 the number of children immunised – 116.2 million – was the highest ever reported. A total of 113 countries have been introduced to new vaccines since 2010, with more than 20 million additional children vaccinated. However, vaccines such as measles, rubella, and maternal and neonatal tetanus are behind schedule, and over the last two years the world has seen multiple outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and various other vaccine-preventable diseases. Most of the children missing out are those living in the poorest, marginalised and conflict-affected communities.

“We commend South African initiatives such as the AIDS Vaccine initiative, the TB Vaccine Initiative, the HPV School Vaccination Programme, and the Vaccines for Africa Initiative (VACFA), launched by the University of Cape Town to help reach the goals set in the vaccination of all in South Africa and other African countries. In 2016 nearly 17 million vaccines were issued in 24 African countries, which is truly remarkable,” notes Dr Coetzee.