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Niyel: an unwavering commitment to vaccination in Africa

 Every April, Africa observes African Vaccination Week, a crucial occasion for raising awareness about the significance of vaccination and highlighting its indispensable role in safeguarding public health. The theme for this year, 2024, “Humanly Possible,” serves as a reminder to leaders and communities alike of the imperative to maintain the progress achieved and to bolster funding towards vaccination efforts, thereby averting the resurgence of preventable diseases.

Over the past 50 years, vaccines have saved nearly 154 million lives, equating to over 3 million lives per year or six lives every minute for five decades. During the same period, vaccination has reduced infant mortality by 40%, according to WHO figures.

“Vaccination is one of the most effective, safest, and accessible public health interventions globally,” stated Dr. Rachel Tanou during the launch ceremony of the Here Zaka CSO activities series, on the sidelines of the 2024 African Vaccination Week. “It has saved millions of lives and eradicated devastating diseases such as smallpox. Vaccines not only protect individuals but also entire communities by fostering herd immunity, which prevents diseases from spreading.”

Since its launch in 1974, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) has successfully introduced several vaccines, thereby contributing to the prevention of severe diseases. At least 13 diseases are now preventable through the adoption of the EPI, including tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis B, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b infections leading to meningitis, pneumococcal infections, rubella and measles, rotavirus diarrhea, and cervical cancer.

The recent introduction of vaccines against malaria and HPV represents a major advancement for public health in Africa. These new vaccines offer significant protection against diseases that disproportionately affect African populations. Malaria is the leading cause of infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, while HPV is responsible for a significant number of cervical cancer cases on the continent.

Nevertheless, it is imperative to acknowledge persistent challenges, such as disparities in vaccine access and distrust within certain communities. African Vaccination Week thus stands as a pivotal moment for mobilization, reiterating the commitment to vaccinate every child and ensuring that vaccination remains an accessible and efficacious tool for saving lives and enhancing the health of African populations.

In alignment with this objective, Niyel, through its “Safe and Secure” campaign advocates for the benefits of vaccines by focusing on evidence and people’s stories. The aim is to change the narrative about vaccination and combat the spread of misinformation

“Ensuring robust human capital is paramount—an investment of utmost importance for any community or nation,” emphasizes Laetitia Badolo, Director of Advocacy and Impact at Niyel. “Vaccination stands as one of the most powerful tools in public health, representing a pivotal investment in the well-being of both children and communities.”

“By vaccinating my children, I feel a sense of reassurance. I trust that they are shielded against serious illnesses and have greater prospects for growing up in good health. This eases both psychological and financial burdens, particularly given the substantial costs associated with healthcare in our hospitals,” shares Mrs. Bara, an informal sector vendor and mother of four.

For Niyel and its partners, this presents an opportunity to celebrate the strides made and to advocate for a renewed commitment from states, including those of middle-income countries, towards increased vaccine funding. “Today, we are reminded of humanity’s role in safeguarding lives,” emphasized Mrs. Badolo.

African Vaccination Week is an annual event running concurrently with other initiatives associated with Vaccination Week in different WHO regions and World Immunization Week, slated for the final week of April (April 24-30). Vaccination remains one of modern medicine’s most potent tools against infectious diseases, functioning by exposing the immune system to a weakened or inactive form of a pathogen, thereby enabling the body to develop immunity against the actual disease.

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