The Organization of African First Ladies against AIDS (OAFLA) has joined the UN agencies, high level government officials, immunization partners and community leaders to launch the African Vaccination Week (AVW), urging all people to protect their health by getting vaccinated.
AVW aims to strengthen immunization programmes in the African Region by keeping immunization high on national agendas, and increasing awareness of the importance of every person’s need and right to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
All 47 countries of the WHO’s African Region will commemorate AVW 2017 with the theme “Vaccines protect everyone, get vaccinated!” to promote the critical importance of full immunization for everyone regardless of their background. This year’s celebration kicks-off as countries begin to implement the Addis Declaration on Immunization (ADI), a landmark commitment supporting and prioritising immunisation in Africa.
Her Excellency, Madam Hinda Déby Itno, the First Lady of Republic of Chad, is hosting this year’s event as part of OAFLA members’ commitment as First Ladies and Leaders, to include immunization among their priority actions in 2017. The First Ladies will actively promote access and investments to life-saving vaccines, and remind governments, communities, families and individuals that everyone should get vaccinated.
H.E. Madam Déby underscored the importance of implementing the ten (10) ADI commitments agreed on in 2016 at the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa in Addis Ababa. She said: “”It is part of our role as leaders to ensure that we reach every child with live saving vaccines”.
Immunization is recognized as one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions in the world, estimated to prevent between two and three million deaths each year. “It is one of the best investments that countries can make in the health of their people and their future,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa. “Vaccines provide benefits beyond health outcomes, such as preventing medical costs and reduced time caring for sick children. These savings can lead to improvements in education, economic growth and poverty reduction,” she added.
The WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr Mahmoud Fikri in his message on the occasion of the Immunization Week in the Eastern Mediterranean Region 2017, urged Member States to invest in immunization programmes, as one dollar spent on immunization brings more than 16 times the return in economic benefit. “Thanks to the efforts of governments, partners and the international community, vaccines are being made available to more people at affordable prices. However, we need to move rapidly to bridge the gaps in immunization coverage and use the available vaccines for the benefit of all,” he stressed.
The GAVI Alliance has played a critical role in bringing together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in Africa.
“So far we have helped protect 240 million children in Africa with life-saving vaccines,” said Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Gavi stands ready to help African countries maintain strong immunisation coverage and respond to outbreaks such as Ebola or Yellow Fever; diseases that can destabilize entire economies if not tackled from the onset. Together we stand stronger to make vaccines work for our communities and create a more prosperous future for all children across our continent.”
The campaign places emphasis on the fact that immunized communities are free of most communicable diseases, and thus a step closer to creating healthy and productive nations.
“Governments, civil society, media and communities all need to continue to work together to make sure that every child is reached with the full complement of this life-saving intervention,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Pakkala. “The African Vaccination Week is an important opportunity to advocate for concrete actions to support vaccination, so that no child is left behind.”
Referring to the Agenda 2063 goals, H. E. Amira Elfadil, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs said: “We cannot achieve the bold and ambitious aspirations that we have set in Agenda 2063 if we do not immunize our children. The African Union is committed to support ongoing efforts by countries and partners to provide affordable and accessible lifesaving vaccines for all children in our determination to implement the Addis Declaration on Immunization.”
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