FREETOWN, April 29, 2018 --- This year’s African Vaccination Week, on the theme ‘Vaccines Work! Do Your Part!’ has been celebrated across Sierra Leone, including a major event to engage community and religious leaders, mothers and civil society organizations at the Satellite Hospital in Freetown. The event was coordinated by the Pikin to Pikin Movement and the Children’s Advocacy Forum with support from the NGO Focus 1000 and Niyel.
Around 40 women who were either pregnant or who had recently given birth attended the forum. They were sensitized on the need for them and their babies to be fully immunized according to the national schedule, which includes vaccination for all infants five times in the first year and importantly, also at 15 months, when they receive the second dose of the measles vaccine.
“Vaccines save lives and protect communities,” said Mr. Terry Balogan, Programme Manager for Immunization at the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone. “We must continue to promote routine vaccinations for all children, which are always available at the health facilities to protect children against many different diseases,” he added.
He impressed upon the benefits of vaccines for everyone, everywhere, and called on the districts with the greatest gaps in performance to do everything in their power to improve and expand vaccination coverage to reach every last child. He also reiterated the United Nations family’s continued support to the immunization programme in Sierra Leone.
Nurses and religious leaders and civil society representatives who were seated at the high table shared their views and recommendations on the best ways to keep child, adults and communities healthy, and improve vaccination performance. Further to this, Cheick Ibrahim Cesay, Leader of the Islamic Action Group appealed on behalf of religious leaders for fathers and men in the community to take a more active role in promoting and supporting children to get all their vaccines on time. "Immunization is everyone's business,” he said. “It is not only a woman’s responsibility but fathers have also a vital part to play".
During the week of the commemoration (23-29 April, 2018), a range of media and community engagement activities were conducted to promote the importance of routine vaccinations, including efforts to reach the most marginalized and vulnerable communities, and to mobilize greater domestic resources to support these efforts.