Nairobi (Kenya) – 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”.
Despite recent progress within African countries, there is still significant opportunities provided by immunization.
Did you know that:
• Immunization can protect against 30 different infectious diseases, from infancy to old age;
• Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective public health stories;
• Immunization saves the lives of 2 to 3 million people worldwide each year.
In addition, the overall health benefits are significant. Immunised children have higher cognitive abilities and are more likely to attend school and go on to be productive members of their community.
By reducing illness and long-term disability, vaccines also generate savings for health systems and families. Health workers are freed up and parents spend less time looking after sick children(1).
Immunisation programs average about 80% coverage globally. South of the Sahara, the average was 80.6% for the DPT3 vaccine in 2013, with wide disparities across countries.
Africa has made several gains beyond increasing reach of immunisation; some diseases, polio for example, 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 partnerships2.
Ensuring equity and coverage across the continent and within countries requires sustained effort and resources. As African countries grow economically and actively finance vaccines and immunisation programmes(2).children and entire economies benefit. Fully-immunized African children have a better chance of living up to their full potential, both intellectually and physically3. And, by investing in immunization, African countries can make a lasting contribution to the millennium development goals (MDGs). These efforts will also advance the health and development commitments of African leaders and governments and allow children and adults to lead productive, prosperous, and healthy lives(3).
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(4).
• 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(5).
• The primary cause of cervical pre-cancerous lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut5.
• The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates HPV infections cause approximately 68 000 cases of cervical cancer each year in Africa. However, these figures most likely represent a conservative estimate due to the health challenges in health information systems and cancer registries in the region(6).
• Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Immunisation, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer(7).
Kenya and HPV
• Cervical cancer in Kenya is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women and the most common cancer found in women between 15 and 44 years of age(8).
• The primary cause of cervical pre-cancer lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut(9).
• Immunisation to protect against HPV, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer(10).
• Kenya became the first country to protect girls against cervical cancer with GAVI-supported HPV vaccines. The first round of the HPV demonstration project took place at the Central Primary School in Kitui County in Eastern Kenya(11). If the HPV vaccine demonstration programme is successful there, it can be expanded to other regions across Kenya.
• This vaccination programme will help Kenya achieve its goal to prevent unnecessary deaths from cervical cancer in Kenya and support an entire generation of women to live healthy, and productive lives.
• MSD commends the HPV immunization efforts in Kenya and supports its continued partnership with Kenya’s Ministry of Health to expand HPV vaccine coverage across the country.
“For more than 100 years, scientists at MSD has been discovering and developing vaccines to help prevent certain diseases in children, adolescents and adults,” said Farouk Shamas Jiwa, Director, Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility in Africa, MSD. “We have an important responsibility to improve access to vaccines and quality healthcare worldwide. 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.”
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme).
Contacts for Media:
Global Communications | Eastern Europe/Middle East/Africa
T: +1 267-305-7545
Farouk Shamas Jiwa,
Director, Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility in Africa
T: +41 799623934