Sarjo Camara-Singateh

The Gambia observes Africa Vaccination week, a day set aside to create awareness on the importance of vaccination and immunization.

This year marks the 8th edition of the event and the theme “Vaccine Work; Do your part”, was the subject for discussion at the venue of the programme held yesterday, Thursday 26th April 2018, at a local Hotel in Senegambia.

Mr. Momodou Gassama, Senior Health Promotion Officer at the WHO-country office, stated that since the 1990s, immunization coverage in The Gambia continued to remain relatively high, but cautioned that more needs to be done; that concerted efforts among the countries over the years, has resulted in more than 150 million individuals being vaccinated against different diseases during the week; that in addition to this, an estimated 85 million children receive Vitamin A supplementation and deworming tablets respectively.

Mr. Rupert Leighton, deputy representative from UNICEF, said the week seeks to provide an opportunity for countries to strengthen their immunization services through advocacy, social mobilization and interactive community engagement and dialogue, with a view to increase awareness on every child’s right to be protected from vaccine preventable diseases; that immunization is inarguably one of the most cost-effective public health intervention in modern times. ‘‘Vaccines save and improve lives, and we should therefore work in tandem, to ensure that they reach the people who need them,’’ he said.

Mr. Leighton said vaccines play a key role in ending preventable child deaths and saving millions of lives each year. He said UNICEF will continue to play a leading role at global and national levels in supporting and working with donors, stakeholders and communities to ensure that every child is reached and immunized against leading vaccine preventable diseases.

Dr. Cherno Omar Barry, Deputy PS at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, stated that Gambia has the highest coverage of immunization in the sub-region and that it is key for everyone to understand the importance of immunization; that everyone has a role to play in order to achieve universal immunization coverage by 2020, in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage.

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