The Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners has joined other African countries to celebrate and launched the African Vaccination Week 2022 in Liberia.
The African Vaccination Week is an annual event that is marked in the last week of April; it is also being held in conjunction with World Immunizations week. In 1974, WHO created the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), a worldwide effort mobilized to help countries increase immunization coverage of basic childhood vaccines—diphtheria, measles, pertussis, polio, tetanus, and tuberculosis—using the third dose of diphtheria, tetanus.
Speaking at the event in Monrovia, Dr. Musu Duworkor, WHO Family Planning/SRHR Focal Point-Liberia, said the purpose of the African Vaccination Week is to provide the opportunity to showcase the importance of vaccines “in our lives”, showing how to protect the humanity of all ages. “So vaccination is not for babies along.” However, the African Vaccination Week 2022 is been celebrated under the theme: “Long Life for All.”
“The 2022 theme “long life for all” clearly demonstrates this goal and it portrays the lifesaving potential vaccines for everyone everywhere,” she added. Dr. Duworkor, further indicated that this indicates the universality of vaccination across the globe. She however acknowledged that there are mixed opportunities to get everyone everywhere vaccinated all of the time, for example, the “COVID-19 vaccination coverage is about 58% up to date.” In Africa Dr. Duworkor said, the COVID-19 vaccination average is about 18.7% and for Liberia “we have been progressing and we are more the African average and Liberia has now achieved more than 44%.” Henceforth the African Vaccination Week is essential to the advocacy and drives to promote the universality of vaccination for everyone everywhere.
However, the African Vaccination Week 2022 kick-off from 24-30 of April, today’s event however, brought together development partners, and health professionals including baby mothers from different communities in Monrovia.
Liberia is celebrating African Vaccination Week 2022 with vaccination services to keep children healthy. The services according to health authorities will be provided in all 15 Counties at Clinics, Hospitals, and designated outreach sites.
Adolphus Clark, Program Manager, Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) in Liberia, informed the public that as a people and country, “it is important to appreciate from whence we have come from and where we are today.” Mr. Clark recalled that the history of immunization in Liberia is dated back to 1973, and Liberia was notified by the WHO in 1974 to establish what is now called the “Expanded Program on Immunization” he clarified that Liberia at the time didn’t do too well, “it took us 4years to achieve and so one of the reasons why we could not introduce or launch this the program was due to the lack of proper infrastructure in place to ensure that all health facilities were equipped to have the storage capacity for storing our vaccines.”
According to him, Liberia needed to train human resources for health, “I mean people needed to be trained on how to administer vaccines and how to handle it. When the country officially launched the Immunization program in 1978, the Ministry at the time was targeting many diseases including measles, pertussis, tetanus, and tuberculosis among others. It was renamed as Universal Immunization Program in 1985 when its reach was expanded beyond urban areas.
Meanwhile, Mr. Clark has disclosed that amid the outbreak of measles in the communities across Montserrado, there are ongoing efforts to do a national response in all of the 15 counties beginning May 2, 2022. During this period the Ministry of Health is expected to vaccinate about 2million persons, we have confidence in our team,” said Mr. Clark.
At the same time, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said in a special message that this year’s theme, “Long Life for All”, highlights the life-saving potential of vaccines for everyone, everywhere. Yet, in Africa, tens of millions of people are still missing out on some, or all, their scheduled immunizations against diseases that have long been eradicated by vaccines.
Delivering a special message in commemoration of the (AVW), Dr. Moeti, disclosed that more than a year into the COVID-19 global vaccine rollout, Africa is benefiting – if later than the rest of the world – from the speedy, efficient development of vaccines to curb the virus. There are currently 10 COVID-19 vaccines available through the COVAX Facility, with more in the research and development pipeline.
According to her, although 480 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Africa to date, making it the biggest vaccine rollout in the history of the continent, only 18.7% of the African population is fully vaccinated – lagging woefully behind the global average of 58%.
Dr. Moeti: “WHO, together with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, World Bank, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has identified 20 priority countries in the WHO African Region for intensified support? Multi-partner country support teams are currently on the ground helping countries with technical and financial resources to ramp up overall and high-priority group COVID-19 vaccination coverage.”
As we work to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination efforts, it is critical that we don’t ignore the urgent need to also strengthen routine immunization efforts. Since 2020, routine immunization has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 containment measures, leading to tens of millions of infants in Africa missing out on essential childhood vaccinations. These include the Diphtheria, Tetanus toxoid, and Pertussis (whooping cough)-containing vaccine, as well as the measles vaccine.
Earlier this year, she noted that a case of wild poliovirus type 1 was recorded in Malawi. This vaccine-preventable disease had been eliminated from the African Region since August 2020. “I commend the Government of Malawi for moving swiftly to contain the outbreak, quickly vaccinating 2.7 million children younger than five against the disease.” However, the incident is a timely reminder that routine vaccinations should be a non-negotiable on our continent.
We have also seen some good examples of best practices, with routine immunization integrated with COVID-19 vaccination. In response to the Yellow Fever outbreak in late 2021, for instance, mobile vaccination teams in Ghana carried Yellow Fever vaccines along with COVID-19 vaccines, vaccinating all eligible people against both. Nigeria recently launched the optimized SCALES 2.0 strategy, which will integrate routine childhood immunization with COVID-19 vaccination at its fixed and mobile vaccination sites.
She urged all countries to ramp up routine immunization and COVID-19 vaccination efforts concurrently, allocating the necessary resources. Maintaining routine immunization services, despite the shift of resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years, is more cost-effective, and will leader to a longer life for all.
Director of Communications MoH/RL