Asanda Matlhare
Intern Journalist
2 minute read
29 Apr 2021
9:02 pm

Experts punt vaccines as World Immunisation Week ends

Asanda Matlhare

Nearly 20 million children in the world are not inoculated against preventable diseases.

A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Picture: Geoff Caddick / AFP

This year’s World Immunisation Week’s theme, “vaccines bring us closer”, aims to encourage greater engagement about immunisation globally, to promote the importance of vaccination in improving the health and well-being of everyone.

The week is recognised every year from 24 to 30 April.

Professor Sipho Dlamini from the department of medicine at University of Cape Town urged people to get the Covid-19 and other vaccinations.

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“Vaccines work and have saved millions of lives to date,” he said.

“They are also safe and effective.

“Vaccines are not a sliver bullet but do help in protecting individuals, communities and the global community.”

A paediatrician, Ashley Wewege, said: “Everyone has a fundamental right to be protected by full immunisation, regardless of location, age, socioeconomic status or gender-related barriers. Vaccines for flu, measles, pertussis, or whooping cough, and pneumococcal infections were important to consider in the South African context. Travellers can be vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, meningococcal disease, yellow fever and rabies.”

The World Health Organisation published an immunisation agenda last year, which aimed to set a global vision and strategy for vaccines and immunisation from this year until 2030.

Wewege said: “There are nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need and many miss out on vital vaccines during adolescence, adulthood and into old age, which is a problem that must be eradicated.”

According to the immunisation agenda, not every country received vaccines for its people. “The benefits of immunisation are unevenly shared: coverage varies widely among and within countries.

“Some populations [often the poorest, the most marginalised and the most vulnerable, in fragile, conflict-torn settings] have poor access to immunisation services.”

The agenda added: “Each year, 20 million infants do not receive a full course of even basic vaccines and many more miss out on newer vaccines. Of these, over 13 million receive no vaccines … the ‘zero dose’ children.”

Dlamini said some of the myths that needed to be eradicated included: vaccines only being necessary for children and not adults; the ingredients of the vaccines altering a person’s DNA and all vaccines being unsafe for pregnant women.

Vaccines were tested and monitored and side-effects were usually mild.

asandam@citizen.co.za