Africa-Press – Lesotho. While a significant number of children are vaccinated annually around the world, many are reportedly left behind leading to countries, including Lesotho, performing below target.
Immunisation is a global health and development success story saving millions of lives every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and that vaccines reduce risks of getting a disease by working with the body’s natural defences to build protection.
WHO says vaccines prevent more than 20 life-threatening diseases, helping people of all ages to live longer, healthier lives. Immunization currently prevents 3.5 to five million deaths every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles.
The global body further states that immunization is a key component of primary health care and an indisputable human right, making vaccines critical to the prevention and control of infectious disease outbreaks.
They underpin global health security and will be a vital tool in the battle against antimicrobial resistance. However, despite tremendous progress, WHO notes that vaccination coverage has plateaued in recent years and dropped since 2020.
It also states that the Covid-19 pandemic and associated disruptions over the past two years has strained health systems, with 25 million children missing out on vaccination in 2021, six million more than in 2019 and the highest number since 2009.
In an interview with Public Eye, private nurse Limpho Hlojeng confirmed that vaccines remain one of the most cost-effective and successful public health interventions, saving lives while preventing disabilities and suffering for many.
As the world commemorated African Vaccination Week beginning April 24 to 30, Hlojeng says it was an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of vaccines and promote vaccination and consequently reduce mortality caused by vaccine preventable diseases.
The theme for this year, ‘Big Catch U’, she said,highlights the need to intensify efforts to reach all children with vaccination. She said this can be done through routine immunisation programmes and catch-up vaccination campaigns targeting hard-to-reach communities.
She continued that this year’s campaign comes at a critical turning point for immunisation, after two years of immunisation backsliding caused by the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions.
“We must catch up, restore and strengthen immunisation services to reach a lot of people missing out on the life-saving benefit of vaccines and stop outbreaks from accelerating,” she said.
As the commemoration continues, Matukeng Health Centre will this week host a comprehensive vaccination campaign, including provision of other health services such as HIV testing services, cervical cancer screening, TB screening and nutrition, among others.
Nurse in charge for the centre, Nthakoana Mokeretla, noted that the campaign is meant for children and their communities to be protected from vaccine preventable diseases, allowing them to live healthier lives.
She also noted that their target is to reach, among others, young girls with cancer screening, the community with Covid-19 screening and children below five years with protective vaccines.
On the other hand, the Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD), in partnership with UNICEF Lesotho, continues to support the Ministry of Health to mobilise and support persons with disabilities to vaccinate against Covid-19 and get a booster.
LNFOD has encouraged parents and caregivers to support persons with disabilities to get vaccinated for Covid-19. According to WHO, the aim of vaccination week is to accelerate progress on vaccination and getting back on track to ensure that more people, particularly children, are protected from preventable diseases.
WHO says it is working with partners to accelerate rapid response in countries to get back on track to ensure more people, particularly children, are protected from preventable diseases.
“2023 is our global opportunity to catch up on lost progress in essential immunisation.
We need to reach more children who missed out on vaccines, restore essential immunisation coverage to at least strengthen primary health care to deliver immunisation and build lasting protection in communities and countries,” WHO notes.
The World Vaccination Week is observed across the globe in the last week of April to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against diseases.