Gaborone, 28 April 2022 – Pandemic-related disruptions, increasing inequalities in access to vaccines, and the COVID-19-related diversion of resources from routine immunization are leaving too many children without protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. As Botswana joins the world in celebrating World Immunization Week and the historic achievements through vaccines, the country needs to urgently turn the spotlight to routine immunization against common childhood diseases, such as measles.
In Botswana, as in many other countries, access to health and vaccination services has been affected by the pandemic. In 2021, the vaccination rate for children under 1 year dropped for all antigens used in routine immunization. When routine vaccinations are missed, the risk of disease outbreaks increases. Movement restrictions during the height of the pandemic, the need to refocus human and financial resources toward COVID-19 prevention and response and the significant strain on health structures by COVID-19 have contributed to this situation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted immunization services, health systems have been overwhelmed, the impact of these disruptions to immunization services will be felt for decades to come,” said Dr Joan Matji, UNICEF Representative. “Now is the moment to get essential immunization back on track and launch catch-up campaigns so that everybody can have access to these life-saving vaccines.”
“While the pandemic created a disruption of several public health services in Botswana, including routine immunization, it also provided the opportunity to strengthen health systems areas, such as the cold chain and human resources for better service delivery“added Dr Josephine Namboze, WHO Country Representative. WHO advocates for vaccines providing the opportunity and hope for all of us to enjoy a more fulfilling life.
As countries work to respond to vaccine-preventable diseases and recover lost ground, UNICEF and WHO, along with partners are supporting efforts to strengthen immunization systems by:
Supporting the government to rectify gaps in immunization coverage, including identifying communities and people who have been missed during the pandemic; Ensuring that COVID-19 vaccine delivery is well-integrated into overall planning for immunization services so that it is not carried out at the cost of childhood and other vaccination services; Supporting the country's plans to prevent and respond to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases and strengthening immunization systems as part of COVID-19 recovery efforts.
World Immunization Week 2022 - 24 to 30 April - #LongLifeForAll
World Immunization Week, celebrated in the last week of April, aims to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.
WHO works with countries across the globe to raise awareness of the value of vaccines and immunization and ensures that governments obtain the necessary guidance and technical support to implement high-quality immunization programmes. The ultimate goal of World Immunization Week is for more people – and their communities – to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
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