Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has revealed that some eight African countries are yet to undertake immunization exercise against measles.

The exercise expected to have been carried out by 15 countries, saw seven out of the total complete their campaigns this year owing to the fight against Covid-19 pandemic last year.

In view of the outstanding numbers, the WHO has warned of a possible measles outbreak in the continent.

According to reports by the WHO, “16.6 million children in Africa missed planned supplemental measles vaccine doses between January 2020 and April 2021,” resulting in an outbreak that affected thousands of persons in eight countries.

Around 9 million children in the African region miss life-saving vaccines each year and one in five children remain unprotected from vaccine preventable diseases, which claim the lives of over 500 000 children under 5 years in Africa every year.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti has therefore urged countries to place importance on treating preventable diseases amidst the fight against the coronavirus.

“Recent outbreaks of measles, but also yellow fever, cholera and meningitis all point to worrying gaps in immunization coverage and surveillance in Africa. As we fight COVID-19, we cannot leave anyone dangerously exposed to preventable diseases. I urge all countries to double down on essential health services, including life-saving vaccination campaigns.

“Integrated action is needed to increase and expand access to immunization as part of primary health care. This must be backed by a well-trained workforce, strong surveillance, health information systems, national leadership, management and coordination,” she stated.

She also encouraged engagement with community leaders and influencers to ensure that everyone understands “the life-saving, transformative promise of vaccines.”

WHO and Member States will observe the 11th African Vaccination Week from April 24 to 30, 2021 – an annual campaign that unites partners in calling for universal access to life-saving vaccines and greater collective action on immunization in Africa.