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75 million children, women and men vaccinated against polio in Africa's first region-wide vaccination week

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Brazzaville, 4 May 2011 -- More than 75 million children, women and men from 22 countries in the WHO African Region were vaccinated in April against polio and many other vaccine-preventable diseases, in the first ever region-wide vaccination campaign of its type.The occasion was the first African Vaccination Week (AVW) initiated, coordinated and led by the WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO). In all, 39 of the 46 countries in the Region organized AVW activities including vaccinating people against other vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, Hib, measles, yellow fever, meningitis, pneumococcal and rotavirus diseases. The aim of the Immunization Week is to strengthen immunization programmes in the Region by drawing attention to, and increasing awareness of the importance, the need and the right of all persons to be protected against vaccine – preventable diseases.“Sure, it was our first outing, but by all accounts it was a huge success”, said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, after the exercise in which more than 86 million doses of polio vaccines were administered by more than 325 000 health workers and volunteers.The regional vaccination week was officially launched in Kinshasa on 28 April by the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Adolphe Muzito, who said: “Vaccination provides protection. The vaccines are available. We should go for vaccination without hesitation”Mr Muzito, who used the occasion to launch his country’s polio National Immunization Days, called on Africans to respond massively to the regional immunization initiative and ensure that all children under five years of age were vaccinated. He also expressed the hope that the exercise would help to attract more resources for the vaccination of African children.Dr Sambo, represented at the launch by Dr Tigest Ketsela, Director of the Family and Reproductive Health Cluster at WHO/AFRO, said: “Our Region has never come closer to eradicating polio as it has now”, echoing the theme of the first African Vaccination Week: “Put mothers and children first, vaccinate and stop polio now”.This year, for the first time, Immunization Week brought together about 180 countries and territories across five WHO Regions – Africa, the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe and the Western Pacific. All conducted various events and activities to boost awareness of immunization and improve demand for vaccines and delivery of services.For more information, please contact:Technical contact:Dr Deo Nshimirimana, Tel: + 47 241 39203; E-mail: nshimirimanad@afro.who.int Media contact:AFRO Communications Team Tel: +47-241-39378/ 39420/39352/39382; e-mail: cam@afro.who.int