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Immunisation : Over 50 Million Lives Saved in Africa- WHO

An estimated 51.2 million lives have been saved in Africa over the past half-century through an expanded immunisation programme, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The report, unveiled during this year’s African Vaccination Week and World Immunization Week, highlights the profound impact of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) launched by WHO in 1974.

Under the EPI initiative, which aimed to ensure equitable access to life-saving vaccines for every child regardless of their background, significant progress has been made.

 Initially covering six vaccine-preventable diseases, most countries in the region now provide antigens for 13 diseases, thanks to continuous support from organizations like WHO, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Notable achievements include the prevention of millions of measles deaths and a substantial reduction in meningitis fatalities.

 Additionally, the region celebrated the near-elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus and the historic milestone of being declared free of indigenous wild poliovirus in 2022.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, emphasized the success story of vaccines, crediting them with saving millions of lives and protecting communities from disease outbreaks. 

She stressed the importance of sustaining and expanding vaccine equity to combat vaccine-preventable diseases effectively.

The introduction of new vaccines, such as the first-ever malaria vaccine, and the expansion of existing ones, like the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, have paved the way for healthier future generations in Africa.

While celebrating these achievements, stakeholders recognize the challenges ahead, including disparities in vaccine coverage and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on immunization efforts. 

Efforts to address gaps in coverage, such as the “Big Catch-Up” initiative and the Zero-Dose Immunization Programme, are underway to reach underserved communities and those living in conflict zones.

To sustain progress and meet the goals of Immunization Agenda 2030, key strategies have been identified, including controlling outbreaks, enhancing vaccine delivery infrastructure, addressing vaccine hesitancy, and increasing research and development for new vaccines.

 

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