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Immunization drive under way for 3 million children in Ebola-hit countries

© UNICEF/UNI183271/Bindra
A nurse gives children their vaccination card after having received measles and polio vaccination, as well as deworming pills and Vitamin A supplement at the Madina Health Centre in Guéckédou, Guinea on 23 April 2015.

DAKAR/GENEVA, 24 April 2015 – For the first time since the start of the Ebola outbreak, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are conducting major nationwide immunization campaigns to protect millions of children against preventable but potentially deadly diseases.

As World Immunization Week is marked from April 24 to 30, the three countries most affected by Ebola aim to vaccinate more than three million children against diseases such as measles and polio in UNICEF-supported campaigns that involve the provision of vaccines and the training and deployment of thousands of immunization teams.
  
“While the effort to get to zero cases of Ebola continues, it’s critical that basic health services are restored,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Stepping up immunization programs that were disrupted by the epidemic will save lives and prevent a reversal of the health gains that were made in these countries before the outbreak.”

In Sierra Leone, a mother and child health week begins today with the provision of Vitamin A, deworming pills and screening for malnutrition. More than 10,000 vaccinators and distributors will be going door-to-door across the country to deliver the interventions, which also include updates for those aged 0-23 months who have missed routine vaccinations. In May, an immunization drive for 1.5 million children under five will cover measles and polio.    

A nationwide measles campaign got under way in Guinea on April 18 to vaccinate 1.3 million children aged six months to nine years. Some 100,000 children were vaccinated during an initial response to a measles outbreak in February. UNICEF also conducted community sensitization campaigns to inform the public of the safety of the vaccinations.

In Liberia, a campaign to provide measles and polio vaccinations to over 700,000 children under five years old is planned for May 8-14. UNICEF has supplied over 750,000 doses of measles vaccines, and, together with its partners is training more than 3,000 vaccinators and county health officials. It is also working with the Government of Liberia on nationwide social mobilization efforts to raise awareness of the campaign.  

As the immunization campaigns are taking place while the threat of Ebola remains, vaccinators are following strict protocols including the use of protective wear, such as gloves and aprons, as well as regular handwashing. 

More than 26,000 cases of Ebola and 10,000 deaths have been reported across the three countries where the outbreak has weakened already fragile health systems while disrupting routine health interventions.

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Multimedia assets on immunization, including in Ebola-hit countries, are available on: http://uni.cf/1bmyyWU

About World Immunization Week
World Immunization Week 2015 (24-30 April) signals a renewed global, regional, and national effort by governments, partners and donors to accelerate awareness and demand for immunization by communities, and improve vaccination delivery services using as a framework the Global Vaccine Action Plan. Each year, immunization averts an estimated 2-3 million deaths from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles.  Polio, a crippling and deadly disease is on the verge of eradication. Despite the enormous effectiveness of immunization, nearly one-fifth of the world’s infants still miss out on basic vaccines. Nearly three-quarters of the children who have not received three doses of DTP-containing (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine during 2013 live in 15 countries: Afghanistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Syria, Uganda and Viet Nam. This year’s campaign focuses on closing the immunization gap and reaching all children with vaccines.

About UNICEF
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.
 
For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For more information, please contact:
Tim Irwin, UNICEF West and Central Africa, tjirwin@unicef.org , +221 77 676 5117
Timothy LaRose, UNICEF Guinea, tlarose@unicef.org , +224 622 350 251
Rukshan Ratnam, UNICEF Liberia, rratnam@unicef.org , +231 770 267 110
John James, UNICEF Sierra Leone, jjames@unicef.org , +232 76 102 401

 

 


 

 

 

UNICEF's response to the Ebola outbreak

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