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Countries wrap up African Vaccination Week activities

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Brazzaville, 1 May 2014 -- Celebration of the African Vaccination Week (AVW) wrapped up in 15 of the 47 countries of the WHO African Region on Sunday 27 April. The celebration of the event is, however, continuing in the remaining 32 countries in the Region during the month of May 2014.

AVW 2014 was a week marked by round-table discussions, advocacy and social mobilization for immunization, training sessions, vaccination activities, and the delivery of life-saving interventions to millions of people around the continent

Reports from Member States indicate that countries used the occasion to carry out the following activities: the introduction of new vaccines into national routine immunization programmes; provision of life-saving interventions such as deworming, vitamin A supplementation, distribution of mosquito nets, growth monitoring and cancer screening. Also undertaken were ‘catch up’ vaccination activities against diseases such as polio, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, neonatal tetanus, influenza, yellow fever, rotavirus, bacterial pneumonia.

Some examples from countries include:

Algeria: In Algeria, during the week, health authorities organized “catch up” activities for all antigens across the country.

Congo: The regional launch of AVW 2014 that took place in Brazzaville on 24 April, with Congolese Minister of Health and Population of Congo, Mr Francois Ibovi, underlining the intrinsic value of vaccines as powerful, proven tools for disease prevention. “The best medicines are the ones that prevent diseases rather than those which cure”, Mr Ibovi said, before proceeding to announce the formal introduction of rotavirus vaccine into Congo’s immunization programme.

Cote d’Ivoire: In Cote d’Ivoire, people defied a heavy downpour to attend the launch of AVW 2014 at the Anzoumana Konaté stadium at Treichville, in downtown Abidjan. Ivorian Minister of Health and the fight against HIV/AIDS, Dr Raymonde Coffie Goudou, presided at the launch ceremony.

DRC: The official launch of AVW 2014 in the Democratic Republic of Congo took place in the commune of Masina, in Kinshasa. The ceremony was attended by parliamentarians, members of the national Subcommittee vaccination, the provincial Minister of Health, and representatives of WHO, UNICEF, Sabine Vaccine Institute, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners. The Minister of Public Health who chaired the launch ceremony said that AVW 2014 was an opportunity to make sure that all eligible persons were vaccinated, and to undertake advocacy and communication activities in order to stimulate demand for vaccination.

Ethiopia: AVW 2014 kicked off on the 23 April 2014 with a colourful event in Gondar, Amhara Region, in the presence of dignitaries including Dr Pierre M'Pele, WHO Representative in Ethiopia. Dr Mpele commended efforts of the Government of Ethiopia and its EPI partners to improve routine immunization in Ethiopia.

Equatorial Guinea: The President of Equatorial Guinea, H.E. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, launched AVW 2014 at a ceremony during which the first round of a national immunization campaign against Polio was also launched. The polio campaign planned for 24 to 27 April 2014 aims to vaccinate 309,000 children under 15 years of age.

Ghana: The WHO Representative in Ghana, Dr Magda Robalo, told a press briefing in Accra on the eve of the launch that Ghana stands tall for the country’s efforts to date, and its leadership in the introduction of vaccines against the major childhood killer diseases in the West African sub-region. The AVW was celebrated together with the 10th anniversary of the Mother & Child Health week.

Senegal: In a circular issued on 14 April, the Minister of Health, Dr Awa Marie Coll Seck, said that 5 regions – Diourbel, Kedougou, Matam, Kaolack and Tabacounda – would be targeted for accelerated vaccination during AVW 2014. In Tabacounda district, health workers would screen for malnourished children and aim to increase immunization coverage to 85 per cent.

South Sudan: During AVW, South Sudan launched a nation-wide Integrated Immunization Campaign for Measles, Polio and Vitamin A Supplementation aimed at reducing the incidence of measles to less than five cases per million, and to boost the population’s immunity against Polio. The campaign targeted more than 2.1 million children under the age of five with measles vaccine and vitamin A supplementation, and more than 2.4 million with polio vaccine

Dr Riek Gai Kok, the Minister of Health of South Sudan said at the launch that: “Vaccination is one of the most cost effective – if not the most cost effective – public health intervention in the world. The vaccines we are giving in this campaign will protect our children against measles and polio”.

Swaziland: The commemoration of AVW was marked in Swaziland by the introduction of a new vaccine, the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13), into the country’s national immunization schedule. The vaccine helps to reduce infant deaths resulting from pneumonia and meningitis. The launch ceremony was held at the Royal Swazi Convention Centre in the country’s Ezulwini Valley. Swaziland thus became the 29th country in the region to introduce the vaccine in its national EPI schedule.

Uganda: The Hon. Minister of Health (General Duties), Dr Erioda Tumwesigye, launched this year’s edition of AVW in the country’s Sheema district, with a call on parents, communities and leaders to play their roles in immunizing their children.

AVW, first celebrated in 2011 has taken the benefits of vaccines to several hundred million people of all ages, and promoted expanded access to immunization, particularly for vulnerable groups and remote communities that traditionally lack access to health services. The initiative also promotes communication and cooperation between countries and helps keep immunization high on the regional and national political agendas.