Africa’s immunization coverage steadily improving after pandemic-linked hiatus: GAVI

By Xinhua
On 26 July 2023 at 06:55

The immunization against infectious diseases that are rampant in Africa has gradually improved despite a hiatus that was experienced at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior official from GAVI, the vaccine alliance, has said.

Olly Cann, the director of Communications at GAVI, said that a steady improvement in vaccine coverage has revitalized the war against vector-borne diseases in Africa including malaria, whooping cough, typhoid and cholera.

"African countries continue to make progress when it comes to protecting their populations against vaccine preventable diseases," Cann said Tuesday during an online interview with Xinhua.

According to Cann, vaccine coverage for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) in the continent improved from 72 percent in 2021 to 73 percent in 2022, defying the strain on public health systems linked to the pandemic.

Cann said the improved vaccination coverage was pronounced in smaller countries like Niger, Rwanda and Tanzania while populous and geographically huge nations like Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo sustained inoculation against infectious ailments.

The top five African countries that recorded significant progress in vaccinating against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough between 2021 to 2022 included Liberia, Rwanda, Mauritania, Tanzania and Guinea-Bissau.

"There was also (a) significant improvement in countries dealing with entrenched fragility and conflict such as Chad, Niger and South Sudan," Cann said, attributing the success to innovative partnerships and targeted investments.

He observed that improved access to malaria vaccine, which was introduced in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi in 2019, has revitalized the fight against the tropical disease which kills nearly half a million children below five years of age in the continent annually.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that Africa accounted for an estimated 95 percent of global malaria cases and 96 percent of deaths in 2021.

Cann hailed the recent announcement by the WHO and partners that 18 million malaria vaccine doses will be allocated to an additional nine African countries in the next two years. He stressed that up-scaling immunization coverage in Africa in a post-pandemic era hinged on innovative partnerships, sustained financing, political goodwill and fidelity to the principles of equity.

Cann believed that concerted efforts to tackle conflicts, climate crises and vaccine hesitancy will be key to boosting immunization against vector-borne diseases in Africa.

While acknowledging that climate change has fueled the spread of vector-borne diseases like cholera, yellow fever, malaria and meningitis, Cann said that the availability of vaccines will save lives besides strengthening the resilience of the continent’s public health systems.