12 May - Mbabane: The Kingdom of Swaziland joined the rest of Africa in commemorating the 7th Africa Vaccination Week (AVW) under the theme “Vaccines Protect Everyone, Get Vaccinated”. The week long commemoration was launched by the Honourable Minister of Health, Senator Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane represented by the Deputy Director of Health Services, Ms Rejoice Nkambule. The launch was held in Hosea Inkhundla, a “hard to reach” area in the Shiselweni Region. The event was attended by the community members from all the six chiefdoms under the Inkhundla, community leaders, the local Member of Parliament, representative of the Regional Administrator, health workers, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Representatives.
During the AVW commemorations Swaziland celebrated the remarkable achievements made by the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in protecting children against Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPDs). It has been a long journey since the establishment of the EPI in 1981. Swaziland has been polio free since 1989, the last neonatal tetanus case was seen in 2007 and the last measles outbreak was in 2010. A number of new vaccines were introduced over the years. The latest being Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV 13), rotavirus and measles-rubella vaccine. As a result the country has seen a reduction in morbidity and mortality due to vaccine preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea especially among children less than five years of age. All these achievements were made through the Government’s provision of routine immunization services with support from WHO, UNICEF and other partners. Of note and very commendable is the fact that the government procures all the vaccines which are provided free of charge to all children and adults who require them. This makes EPI more sustainable and enables universal access to appropriate vaccines.
However during the AVW launch the Honourable Minister reported that the national immunisation coverage has remained stagnant at around 80% from 2014 to 2016 for the pentavalent vaccine (DPT + Hep B + Hib) which protects children against Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B. The coverage of measles at 9 months is 69%. She stressed that everyone has a role to play in ensuring universal access to immunizations and making sure that all children are protected and disease outbreaks due to vaccine preventable diseases are prevented. Through dialogue created during the launch it came out that some children do not get vaccinated due to inaccessibility of health facilities, lack of transport money and care givers being elderly among other social, economic and environmental factors. The community members showing a clear understanding of the benefits of immunization requested the EPI to revive the provision of outreach services as the nearest health facility is about 20km away from the community.
“If my mother had not taken me for immunization, I probably would not be standing here in front of you today. Some children are living with disability because their parents did not take them for immunization. A child is like a tree that needs to be nurtured while young because any wrong cannot be corrected when the child is already old,” stated Hosea Member of Parliament Mr. Thulani Masuku. He was indeed emphasizing the fact that vaccines protect everyone. Speaking at the same event, World Health Organisation (WHO) Officer in Charge Dr Khosi Mthethwa said expanding access to immunization is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. “As we continue to strive towards Universal Health Coverage, let us also ensure universal access to immunization. As a country and as communities let us be committed to ensuring that every person - regardless of geography or demographic – receives access to immunization. Let us continue to strengthen health systems in order to attain universal health coverage and protect children’s and indeed everyone’s fundamental human right to health,” she said.
The event presented an opportunity to provide high impact child survival interventions including immunization, Vitamin A supplementation, Deworming, growth monitoring as well as treatment of minor ailments and referrals. There was a mobile clinic as well for adults who required medical attention. HIV counselling and testing services were also available as well as birth registration services.
For more information contact :
Dr Kevin Makadzange– HPR officer ;
World Health Organization—Swaziland Country Office, P.O. Box 903, 2nd Floor, Lilunga House, Somhlolo Road, Mbabane, Swaziland.
Phone : (+268) 24042928, 24049635, fax : (+268) 2404 4566 email: makadzangek [at] who.int
01 - Hosea Member of Parliament Mr. Thulani Masuku motivating the community members to take up immunization services.
02 - DDHS Ms Rejoice Nkambule, WHO Officer in Charge Dr Khosi Mthethwa, UNICEF’s Joice Mphaya, Hosea MP Mr. Thulani Masuku and representatives from the Regional Administrator's office posing with the children at the AVW launch in Hosea.
03 - One of the elderly women who brought her grandchildren for immunization services provided on site.