African nations miss vaccines coverage target

[NAIROBI] The proportion of children worldwide who received all doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine in 2016 fell short of the 90 per cent target, with African countries particularly lagging, a new WHO and UNICEF report shows.

The WHO says that due to immunisations, two to three million deaths are prevented every year, but increasing vaccine coverage could help avoid additional 1.5 million deaths.

According to the new report, the 86 per cent DTP3 coverage achieved globally in 2016 made over 19 million children prone to vaccine-preventable diseases.

“All stakeholders such as religious, community, and opinion leaders should educate and sensitise … people on the importance of vaccinated generation.”

Valentine Sing’oei, US Army Medical Research Directorate-Kenya

“Eight countries had estimated DTP3 coverage of less than 50 per cent in 2016: Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Ukraine,” the report says.

But the estimates also show progress in 2016 since 2015 in some countries such as Cape Verde (from 93 to 96 per cent), Ghana (from 88 to 93 per cent) and Zimbabwe (87 to 90 per cent).

Kenya remained at the 2015 level of 89 per cent, according to new estimates released last month (15 July).

Rudi Eggers, WHO representative in Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that collecting vaccine coverage data and interpreting it is critical because it will help the country to prioritise and tailor strategies and operational plans to address immunisation gaps and reach every person with life-saving vaccines.

“Kenya should come up with initiatives that will address the accessibility issues,” says Rudi Eggers, citing strategies such as improving vaccine outreach campaigns, motivating and building capacity of healthcare workers, passing knowledge about the importance of vaccine to the communities that are barred by the culture issues and establishing the facilities to get people vaccinated.

Eggers also urges Africa to start thinking of technological tools such as jet injector — which uses high pressure, unlike the normal needle, to deliver vaccines — to increase the coverage.

Valentine Sing’oei, research officer at US Army Medical Research Directorate-Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that immunisation prevents diseases such as hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pneumonia, polio, rubella and tetanus.

“All stakeholders such as religious, community, and opinion leaders should educate and sensitise …  people on the importance of vaccinated generation to boost universal reach of immunisation coverage in Africa because many a time vaccination has been seen to have negative impacts,” she explains.

Sing’oei adds that African governments should also invest in the infrastructure for the transportation and storage of vaccines to ensure they reach their final destinations in good conditions.

By Sam Otieno

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

 

References

Progress and challenges with achieving universal immunization coverage: 2016 estimates of immunization coverage (WHO/UNICEF, July 2017)

 

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

 

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