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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

World Immunization Week Aims to “Close the Immunization Gap” and Provide “a Gift for Life” in Africa

South-Africa, April 29, 2015/Africa-- The World Health Organization’s World Immunization Week (WIW) from 24th to 30th April this year aims to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination to people of all ages and increase rates of immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases around the world. 

This year WIW focuses on ‘closing the immunization gap.’ African Vaccination Week is being  celebrated under the theme “Vaccination, a gift for life”.

Did you know that:

•          Immunization can protect against 30 different infectious diseases, from infancy to old age; and

•          Immunization saves the lives of 2 to 3 million people worldwide each year?

Africa has made several gains beyond increasing reach of immunisation; some diseases have been eliminated through wide-scale immunisation programmes. Vaccines are available in public vaccination programmes in the vast majority of African countries, thanks to sustained political will, international support and innovative public/private partnerships.


Despite recent progress within African countries, there are still significant opportunities provided by immunization, particularly to help protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.

Africa and Human Papillomavirus

•          An estimated 266,000 women die every year from cervical cancer. Over 85% of those deaths occur among women in developing countries. Without changes in prevention and control, cervical cancer deaths are forecast to rise to 416,000 by 2035; and virtually all of those deaths will be in developing countries(2).

•          Cervical cancer is the most common of all cancers in Africa and thus continues to be a significant threat that demands urgent attention in the African Region. In 2012, over half a million new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide with 1 in 5 being in sub-Saharan Africa(3).

•          The primary cause of cervical pre-cancerous lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk HPV. HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut(3).

•          Cervical cancer is a preventable disease.  Immunisation, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer(4).

“For more than 100 years, scientists at MSD (http://www.merck.com) has been discovering and developing vaccines to help prevent certain diseases in children, adolescents and adults,” said Henrik Secher, associate vice president and managing director, MSD Africa. “We have an important responsibility to improve access to our life-saving vaccines and quality healthcare worldwide.”

“MSD commends the great progress in HPV immunization efforts in Africa and supports it through continued partnership in a range of HPV immunization programs – currently in 12 countries across African continent,” he said. “We do this by working in partnership with others –  governments, donors, patient organizations, healthcare professionals, NGOs, multilateral organizations and others in the private sector – to lend our expertise and knowledge. Our commitment is steadfast as we work to increase access to vaccines now and in the future.”

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