More than 20,000 children aged between nine and 59 months were vaccinated against Measles Rubella during the Africa Vaccination Week (AVW), the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed.
The AVW was launched in May by the Minister of Health, Selibe Mochoboroane, at Thabana-Morena Clinic at Ha-Konote, in Mafeteng.
The goal of the AVW is to strengthen immunisation programmes in Africa by increasing awareness of the importance of every person’s need and right to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Some of the diseases that are vaccine-preventable and treatable include diphtheria, smallpox, measles, tetanus, rubella, and yellow fever.
“In 2021 and 2022, Lesotho sustained high coverage of under-five vaccination, above 80 percent in seven out of 10 districts, despite the impacts of COVID-19,” WHO Lesotho said in a statement last Wednesday.
It stated that for over two centuries, vaccines had safely reduced the scourge of diseases like polio, measles, and smallpox, helping children to grow up healthy and happy.
It also stated that since its launch in 2014, the African Vaccination Week had proven particularly effective in bridging the vaccine access gap by reaching populations with limited access to regular health services.
“It also provides the opportunity to integrate child survival interventions with immunization services. African Vaccination Week showcases the importance of vaccines in our lives, and how they protect us, young and old, against more than 25 vaccine-preventable diseases,” it said.
Speaking during the official launch of the AVW in Mafeteng, WHO Country Representative to Lesotho, Dr Richard Banda, called on the government to ensure vaccination retained its place in the national development and security agenda.
“The African Vaccination Week is an opportunity for us to catch up on the missed opportunities for unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children and to learn from our communities what the challenges are,” Banda explained.
While reiterating the commitment of the United Nations (UN) family to provide the necessary support to the government, he urged all parents and stakeholders to ensure that all children’s routine vaccinations were up to date.
He vowed that the UN Family remained committed to giving the government of Lesotho the necessary support that is required to ensure that supply chain mechanisms were responsive for the people.
“We, therefore, need to act now to catch up with the thousands of children who missed out on vaccines during the pandemic. The ambition to ensure that every child has access to essential vaccines by 2030 is within reach,” he said.
Also speaking the launch of the AVW, Mochoboroane said the government was dedicated to delivering primary health care across the country to ensure a healthy and productive populace.
He said Primary Health Care (PHC) was the first step in the provision of health care.
“It entails services such as immunisation, family planning, anti-natal care, and treatment of common diseases, treatment and management of Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS counselling, amongst other services”, said Mochoboroane.
The Minister, therefore, appealed to all health workers to encourage parents to vaccinate their children.
“The government is committed to bringing primary health care services to communities countrywide to prevent diseases like polio, measles, and smallpox. I urge parents to bring children to get vaccinated and also for adults to vaccinate for Covid-19 including boosters,” he said.
WHO technically and financially supported the Ministry of Health to plan and implement the 2023 AVW catch up vaccinations. Health facilities conducted head counts of eligible children to facilitate planning of resources.
The communities were then mobilized followed by the catch up vaccinations in all districts/health facilities targeting children under five years who missed their routine immunizations doses and children who missed the 2022 MR doses.
As a result of the elaborate campaign and social mobilisation for vaccination, many districts recorded massive turnout.