Health

UNICEF to tackle disease outbreak via vaccine safety

Following outbreaks of diseases, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, is working towards inaugurating a global campaign front on vaccine safety, expected to hold between April 24 and April 30.

Mr Robin Nandy, who is UNICEF’s Chief of Immunization, made this known in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria NAN today, Thursday in Abuja. According to the statement, the campaign would go alongside with  World Immunization Week from April 24 to April 30.

The campaign billed for that numbers of days is for the purpose of emphasising on the power and safety of vaccines for diseases among parents and also the wider social media users.

The News Agency of Nigeria NAN said that the campaign is tagged ‘VaccinesWork’, and will spread the message that collaboration with communities, including parents can protect everyone through vaccines.

Nancy has also noted that UNICEF will use social media in its campaign to show that most parents trust vaccines to protect their children. According to him, vaccines save up to 3 million lives yearly, protecting children from potentially deadly, highly infectious diseases such as measles, pneumonia, cholera and diphtheria. He further noted that fewer people died from measles between 2000 and 2017, adding that polio is on the verge of being eradicated.

“This year, UNICEF is partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) and the Vaccine Alliance to encourage even greater reach. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute USD$1 to UNICEF for every like or share of social media posts using the hashtag #VaccinesWork this month up to USD$1 million, to ensure all children get the life-saving vaccines they need.

“Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective health tool ever invented – every USD$1 spent on childhood immunization returns up to USD$44 in benefits. We want the awareness that #VaccinesWork to go viral. Vaccines are safe and they save lives. This campaign is an opportunity to show the world that social media can be a powerful force for change and provide parents with trustworthy information on vaccines,” Nancy said.

NAN also reported Violaine Mitchell’s, Interim Director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation statement, he said the campaign was part of a global, week-long celebration under the theme, “Protected Together: Vaccines Work”. Mrs Mitchell said it was to honour Vaccine Heroes from parents and community members to health workers and innovators.

She noted that in spite of the benefits of vaccines, an estimated 1.5 million children died of vaccine-preventable diseases in 2017. According to her, this is often due to lack of access to vaccines, in some countries, families are delaying or refusing to vaccinate their children because of complacency or scepticism about vaccines. This, she noted, has resulted in several outbreaks, including an alarming surge in measles, especially in higher-income countries describing uncertainty about vaccines on digital and social media platforms as one of the factors driving this trend.

According to her, that is why the centrepiece of this UNICEF campaign is a 60-second animated film, “Dangers,” which along with illustrated animations for social media posts and posters.

“This is based on the relatable insight that kids, by their very nature, are little daredevils who are constantly putting themselves in danger. The video explains that while parents can’t prevent all the dangers their kids get themselves into, they can use vaccination to help prevent the dangers that get into their kids. More children than ever before are being reached with vaccines today. We are delighted to work with UNICEF and all the global and country partners around the world who are working tirelessly to ensure all children, especially those in the world’s poorest countries can be protected from life-threatening infectious diseases,” Mitchell said.

NAN reported that Mitchell also noted that immunization coverage in Nigeria was only 57.2 per cent in 2018, describing it as far below the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) target of 90 per cent. She, however, noted that the clear benefit of vaccines could be seen in the case of polio, where vaccines have been crucial in eradication efforts.

“The country has been free of any case of wild poliovirus since September 2016 and is on track for being declared polio-free by the end of this year. Similarly, Angélique Kidjo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Grammy Award-Winning Singer, said the success of polio vaccines in eliminating polio has among other factors been linked to the low cost and oral administration route of vaccines, enabling mass delivery. Today, nine in 10 children receive immunizations, but we cannot leave anyone behind. We must reach every child with life-saving vaccines,” she said.

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Joseph Athanasius

Joseph Athanasius is a Public Affairs Commentator and News Writer at InfoGuide Nigeria News.

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