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Africa: About 51 million lives saved through immunization programme - WHO

A child cries as she is immunized against polio in Kano, Nigeria, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008.   -  
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An estimated 51.2 million lives have been saved through vaccines in the African region over the past 50 years.

The World health organization announced the achievement on Wednesday, at the start of this year’s African Vaccination Week and World Immunization Week.

In half a century, vaccination against 14 diseases (diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type B, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, measles, meningitis A, pertussis, invasive pneumococcal disease, polio, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus, tuberculosis, and yellow fever) has directly contributed to reducing infant deaths by 40% globally, and by more than 50% in Africa.

Working with researchers around the world, the WHO led the analysis of the impact of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) from 1974 to 2024.

The EPI initiative was launched by the body as a global endeavour to ensure equitable access to life-saving vaccines for every child.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa hailed half a century of momentum. “From disease prevention to eradication the success story of vaccines is a compelling one. Millions of people are alive and healthy today thanks to the protection vaccines offer,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti said.

She also called for sustaining and expanding vaccine equity to end the threat of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

While progress in vaccine coverage has been made, the region still faces challenges in achieving and sustaining high immunization coverage rates for most of the vaccine-preventable diseases. There are also challenges in ensuring equitable vaccine access across the continent with a significant number of children yet to receive a single dose of life-saving vaccines while others not receiving enough doses.

According to the WHO's landmark study, global immunization efforts have saved an estimated 154 million lives over the past 50 years.

The report is to be published by world leading medical journal The Lancet.