Government of Liberia and partners kick off African Vaccination Week [6 May 2014]
Seek to raise awareness of the life-saving benefits of immunization for children
PAYNESVILLE, Liberia – The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare today announced the official start of African Vaccination Week – a continent-wide initiative that aims to refocus attention on the importance of vaccines for children.
Maternal Health Goodwill Ambassador Miatta Fahnbulleh kicked off the week-long campaign at a launch event at the Duport Road Health Center in Paynesville. Government officials, UNICEF, fellow UN counterparts and civil society representatives attended the ceremony.
“Vaccines prevent 2.5 million deaths annually worldwide,” said Ambassador Fahnbulleh. “Yet over 10 per cent of Liberian children have not received the full course of recommended routine immunizations. African Vaccination Week is an opportunity to close this gap through concentrated efforts to encourage more parents to vaccinate their children and to take other simple measures to keep them healthy.”
During African Vaccination Week, the government, UNICEF and other partners will support awareness and delivery of three interrelated interventions: vaccination of infants under one year of age to prevent childhood diseases; provision of Vitamin A and deworming tablets to children under five years of age to improve nutrition and disease resistance; and promotion of hand washing using soap or ashes (where soap is unavailable) to prevent disease transmission. During the week, approximately 850,000 children are expected to be vaccinated or to receive other essential health services.
“The Government of Liberia guarantees all infants under one year of age a series of free, routine immunizations that can protect them from debilitating, potentially lethal childhood diseases,” said Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Bernice Dahn. “Despite this, almost one in four deaths of Liberian children under five is due to vaccine-preventable illnesses.”
To reduce child mortality, the government, UNICEF and other partners will promote greater awareness of the government’s routine immunization program, known as the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), and will extend hours for health facilities and outreach sites providing these services nationwide. The importance of ensuring a child receives the full course of routine immunizations will be stressed.
“All mothers want what is best for their children,” said UNICEF Country Representative Sheldon Yett. “African Vaccination Week is about both supplying this information and linking it to concrete services and action.”UNICEF is a key partner in the government’s efforts to expand routine immunization coverage in Liberia. With funding support from the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF imports all vaccines into Liberia and provides the system needed to keep those vaccines at the right temperature until they are administered to children.
Ensuring timely immunization is a key component of “A Promise Renewed”, a global accelerated effort supported by UNICEF and partners to reduce child mortality.
The routine immunization package delivered under EPI includes vaccines that protect against measles, polio, pneumonia (PCV), tuberculosis (BCG) and yellow fever, as well as pentavalent, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hepatitis B and one form of influenza. The package is given over the course of five visits made within the first year of life. As part of EPI, women of childbearing age are also eligible for tetanus toxoid (TT), which prevents tetanus in both mothers and newborns.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
· Adolphus Scott, Communications for Development Specialist
Tel: +231-(0)770-25-7113 (office), +231-(0)770-26-7113 (mobile),
· Carolyn Kindelan, Communications Officer
Tel.: +231-(0)770-25-7110 (office), +231-(0)770-26-7110 (mobile)