Vaccination coverage slightly better ... All set for immunisation drive next week

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WINDHOEK - The immunisation coverage of children under the age of five years in 2013 improved slightly compared to previous years.

In 2013, 89 percent of children received the recommended Pentavalent vaccine. The vaccine protects against five diseases in children, namely diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis and haemophilus influenza.

In addition, an 83 percent immunisation coverage was reached for measles.

Despite this, it was reported at regional level that not all the districts reached the targeted 80 percent coverage as seven of the 35 districts in the country fell below the target percentage in terms of immunisation coverage.

A total of 17 632 children were not vaccinated for the recommended immunisation for their ages.

The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, revealed the statistics at the launch of the ‘African Vaccination Week’ campaign at the Otjomuise clinic in Windhoek on Wednesday.

The African vaccination week campaign will run from Monday to Friday next week and children under five years old will be vaccinated at public health facilities as well as designated areas such as schools.

Part of the campaign is to emphasise the importance of immunising children especially against protection from childhood diseases that can be prevented if vaccinated.

Speaking at the launch, he expressed concern Namibia still experiences sporadic outbreaks of measles especially in the border arreas, an indication the nation’s children are not fully vaccinated.

He said if all children are protected through immunisation they would not be affected, even those from the border areas.

“We should take advantage of the week to check whether our children are up to date with the vaccines they need. Timing, they say, is everything and this is definitely the case with vaccines as they are most effective when they are given at the right time,” stressed the health minister.

Kamwi validated his statement by stressing that immunising children is a worthy investment because when children are vaccinated they are protected against diseases as this saves money.

The minister also urged parents to take their children for immunisation next week, saying, immunising children is a shared responsibility and everyone should do their part.

The WHO country representative, Dr Monir Islam, reiterated that vaccination saves lives, mitigates the severity of diseases and extends life expectancy.

“Immunisation also promotes women empowerment as women may opt for fewer children knowing that children born will reach adulthood,” said Islam.

The African vaccination week campaign is the first for Namibia but the country in the past had national immunisation days during which children were vaccinated.

The campaign is themed ‘Vaccinated Communities, Healthy Communities.’

By Alvine Kapitako