Saturday May 1, 2021
Somali children receive vaccinations as they struggle against acute watery diarrhea and malnutrition at a Stabilization Center run by the Somaliland Red Crescent and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Somalia. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)
Somalia, United Nations agencies and other partners Friday renewed their commitments to improving vaccination coverage against COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases in the country.
Somalia’s health ministry, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other agencies said they have been providing vaccines while observing COVID-19 protocol since last year to Somalis against preventable diseases such as measles, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type b, cholera, tuberculosis, polio, and now against COVID-19.The agencies said 3 million children have been offered vaccines to protect them from polio since the resumption of mass vaccination campaigns in September 2020, which had been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Overall, 433,863 (70 percent of the target) children aged under one year received their first doses of measles vaccines to protect them against this highly infectious disease,” the agencies said in a joint statement issued at the end of the week-long World Immunization Week.
This year, the World Immunization Week, which was celebrated on April 24-30, came at a time when Somalia is conducting one of its largest and much-needed vaccination campaigns against COVID-19.
Minister of Health and Human Services Fawziya Abikar Nur called for more efforts to improve vaccination coverage, noting that polio is on the verge of being eradicated.
“Smallpox’s last resting place was in Somalia. But, thanks to concerted and collaborative efforts, we were able to eliminate the disease. Polio is on the verge of being eradicated,” the minister said.
With the help of partners, Somalia’s circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 3 (cVDPV3) outbreak was successfully stopped this year, 28 months after it was reported, with no further international spread, Nur said.
The minister said 121,743 people in Somalia have received their first doses of vaccine against COVID-19.
Mamunur Malik, the WHO representative for Somalia, said the pandemic will not end if it doesn’t end in Somalia and other conflict-affected countries with very weak and fragile health systems.
In the last decade, Malik said, at least 10 million deaths have been prevented by vaccines worldwide, and more lives have been saved by vaccines in the history of medicine.
Mohamed Ayoya, the UNICEF representative in Somalia, said the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the world how important and effective vaccines are.