Monrovia, April 27, 2022 - The surge of COVID-19 has negatively affected routine vaccination services globally, and Liberia is not an exception. This does pose a threat to the hard-earned gains the country has made over the years, in the management of vaccine-preventable diseases. African Vaccination Week is commemorated on the 24th-30th of April every year along with World Immunisation week, providing an opportunity to reflect on the importance of vaccines and how they benefit the population at large, regardless of age, from almost 25 vaccine-preventable diseases. Liberia is one country that has thrived from the protection that vaccines provide, which doesn’t only benefit the health of individuals and families but also translates into the health and well-being of the population, which are integral to the development and economic productivity.
Today, Liberia launched the African Vaccination Week as part of the commemoration under the theme "Long Life for All". This intervention comes at a time when the country has seen a rise in the number of cases of other vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles from 572 end 2021 to 1430 currently.
Speaking during the launch, the Chief Executive Officer of JFK Medical Centre, Dr Jerry Brown, stressed the importance of teamwork in the delivery process, as part of making the Immunisation Programme a success.
"It's all dependent on teamwork from the vaccine message developers, to the providers, and finally the recipients. We are all critical players in the process. As such, in order for Liberia to succeed, we must do it and do it well", he said.
He further urged all parents and caregivers to be sincere in ensuring the provision of optimal care to children under their care by making sure they are fully vaccinated and protected. He also urged the older population to get the required vaccines, including the vaccines for COVID-19. "We all should be ambassadors for vaccination," said Dr Brown.
WHO Family and Reproductive Health cluster lead Dr Musu Duworko, read the Africa Regional Directors' message at the event. Some of the key points in the message are the need for countries to ramp up routine immunisation and accelerate COVID-19 vaccination efforts concurrently, by allocating the necessary resources. Emphasis is also made on the benefits of maintaining routine immunization services, which are more cost-effective and will lead to a longer life for all.
The Director of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in the Ministry of Health, Mr. Adolphus Trokon Clarke, gave a background on how Liberia has progressed in vaccination from an initial 6 traditional vaccines to over 10 vaccines, including HPV and TCV for cervical cancer and typhoid, respectively.
"Most recently, the country also rolled out COVID-19 vaccines. Liberia has made significant strides in COVID-19 vaccination coverage, whose performance is slightly above that of the African continent, but there is a need to do more to get to the required 70% WHO target. Liberia's COVID-19 vaccination coverage is currently at 44%, contributing to Africa's 18.7%", said Mr Clarke.
He also informed the gathering of the vaccination outreach across all 15 counties during the week-long campaign. He implored on the people in the communities to cooperate with the vaccinators and patronise the services. Additionally, Mr. Clarke mentioned that, in wake of the measles outbreak in communities, preparations are underway to conduct a national response in all 15 counties from May 2nd to May 8th, 2022. The Ministry of Health is targeting vaccinating atleast 2 million people during this period. "We are optimistic that, as a team, we will achieve the set target", said Mr Clarke.
Dr Brown officially launched the African vaccination week by symbolically administering a vaccine at the event. Similar events were carried out in at least 6 counties of the 15 counties, with the other 9 others expected to replicate the same. These will be followed by vaccination outreach at community level.
WHO, together with UNICEF in Liberia, with support from GAVI and USAID, are cordially working together to support community vaccination outreach during the African Vaccination Week. At the end of the campaign week, it is expected that children who missed out on scheduled immunization will be reached during this exercise.