Embrace vaccines to reduce the burden of infectious diseases

By Sarah Achen

Parents and guardians have been urged to embrace immunization so as to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

The call was made by the Minister of Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng in a speech read for her by Hon. Sarah Opendi the state minister for Health for general duties  on the 7Th Africa Vaccination Week -2017 at Serena Hotel last week.

Opendi says that vaccination is a proven public health intervention with many social and economic benefits as documented by World Health Organization. “Globally vaccines have not only reduced the burden of infectious diseases but have also eradicated some killer diseases. Vaccinations have continued to report to protect nations against measles, meningitis, tuberculosis, tetanus, etc,” he says. Small pox, a deadly viral disease has been successfully eradicated using vaccinations and currently the world is positioned to eradicating polio from the globe.

Over the years, Uganda has tremendously improved its immunization converge-while Uganda has improved immunization coverage, some surveys however indicate declining performance in some communities leading to disease outbreaks. The Demographic and Health Survey of 2011 showed that about 3.8% of children are not being reached with even one dose of any vaccine, more than 90% are being reached with at least one dose and about 51.5% of all children receive all basic vaccines.

She added that the ministry recognizes the importance of Community Engagement as a strategy that has been used in many African settings to strengthen the trust and confidence of communities in health services using a bottom-up approach. There is great need to use community structures to support District Health Teams to raise public awareness about immunization, promote social/behavioral change and increase demand for vaccination services. It is critical t use community structures to dialogue with communities for greater access to health care, raise awareness on cultural barriers inhibiting immunization uptake and improve better understanding of the benefits of immunization.

“This year we have decided to implement sustained community engagement activities in all districts of Busoga regions focusing on immunization during the Africa vaccination week 2017. The activities will revolve round School Health clubs, Village Health Teams, community, religious and cultural leaders and other relevant structures,” she adds.

Dr Gerald Ssekitto Kalule Chief of party at USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Program, appeals to Ugandans to ensure that everyone is fully immunized, to tremendously reduce the burden of vaccine preventable diseases in the country so as to build the desired stock of human resource capital required to propel Uganda into the middle income status.

Dr Phionah Atuhebwe regional Technical Advisor, Vaccines and Immunization at PATH a health advocacy organization adds that childhood immunization prevents 2-3m deaths each year.

This enormous impact can be partially attributed to the increase in vaccines that are now available recently the 7th African Vaccination Week was celebrated from 24-30 April 2017 with the theme “Vaccines protect everyone, get vaccinated! The celebration of this year’s event concedes with the 1st anniversary of the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa resulted in a first-ever Addis Declaration on Immunzation signed by Ministers of Health or Heads of states on 31st January 2017.

It also concedes with the halfway point of Regional Immunization Strategic Plan endorsed by 47 Member States in 2014- which aims to prevent millions of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases by 2020 through universal access to immunization.

About African Vaccination Week

African Vaccination Week is an annual event celebrated during the last week of April in synchronization with the other WHO Regions and the World Immunization Week. It is led and coordinated by the World Health Organization Regional office for Africa and implemented by countries. The goal of the AVW is to strengthen immunization programmes in the African Region by increasing awareness of the importance of every person’s need and right to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

It aims at keeping immunization high on the national and regional agendas through advocacy and partnerships. It also promotes delivery of other high impact lifesaving interventions. The over-arching slogan of AVW is “Vaccinated communities, Healthy communities”. Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions.

Immunization currently averts an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year. It averts estimated 2 to 3 m deaths every year. Additional 1.5m deaths could be avoided, however, if global vaccination coverage improves. In 2015, estimated 7.8m children under the age of one in the African Region were un/under vaccinated.

Since institutionalization of AVW in April 2011, implementation is flexible and countries choose their activities, but focus on goals of national health strategies. Countries conducted large scale vaccination campaigns, small scale vaccination activities and other child cervical interventions.

Dr Sekitto explains that immunization prevents illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases including cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, whooping cough, pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella and tetanus.

Immunization currently averts estimated 2 to 3 m deaths every year. An additional 1.5m deaths could be avoided, however if global vaccination coverage improves.

Estimated 19.4 m infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines.

Global vaccination coverage-the proportion of the world’s children who receive recommended vaccines has remained steady for the past few years. During 2015, about 86% of infants worldwide received 3 doses of diphtheria-tetanus –pertussis vaccine, protecting them against infectious diseases that can cause serious illness and disability or be fatal. By 2015, 126 countries had reached at least 90% coverage of DTP3 vaccine.


Last year, the strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization identified 5 factors to achieving results in immunization coverage:

Quality and use of data, community involvement, better access to immunization services for marginalized and displaced populations, strong health systems and access to vaccine in all places always.

In 2015, estimated 19.4m infants worldwide were not reached with routine immunization services such as DTP3 vaccine. Around 60% of these children live in 10 countries: Angola, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Ukraine.  Monitoring data at substantial levels is critical to helping countries prioritize and tailor vaccination strategies and operational plans to address immunization gaps and reach every person with lifesaving vaccines.

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