By Gabriel-Eddie Njoroge

MSD, also known as Merck has added its voice to calls for African countries to intensify efforts to ensure all people receive the life-saving benefits of vaccines.

About 56 percent of the global deaths related to vaccine-preventable diseases total around 500 million children under the age of 5 years old making immunization critical to preventing these deaths and helping children everywhere survive and thrive.

“Vaccination at all stages of life – infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood – can help save lives by preventing many of the life-threatening diseases affecting people both in Africa and elsewhere around the world. MSD has been committed to inventing life-saving vaccines for over 100 years, and together with others we remain dedicated to supporting vaccination programs to help people live healthier lives,” said Rene Snyman, Managing Director for MSD in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Immunization is recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions ; preventing illnesses, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases such as cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella and tetanus; in the process saving millions of lives every year.

“While we acknowledge the work that still needs to be done, it’s important for us to recognize the progress that has been made, and the contributions of parents, healthcare workers, scientists, educators and communities that have helped get us to where we are. Without these heroes playing their roles as champions and advocates of vaccination, many more would have fallen victim to vaccine preventable diseases,” Snyman said.

There are still nearly 20 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world today even as the uptake of new and underused vaccines is increasing. This is evident when you consider, since 2010, 113 countries have introduced new vaccines and more than 20 million additional children have been vaccinated, while in 2017 alone, the number of immunized children reached 116.2 million, making it the highest number ever reported.

In spite of these gains all targets for vaccinations be it, measles, rubella and maternal and neonatal tetanus are behind schedule. This has resulted in the world experiencing multiple outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and other vaccine-preventable diseases over the last two years. Most of the children missing out live in the poorest, marginalized and conflict-affected communities.

One of the ways to combat the failure to immunize, is for countries to intensify efforts to ensure all people receive the life saving benefits of vaccines

Some countries having achieved or made progress towards immunization goals tend to relax their vaccination activities that lead to the re-emergence of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated  children, thus those countries must ensure and work extra hard to sustain the progress they have made to also improve that too.

Lack of adequate healthcare system infrastructure, issues regarding vaccine cold chain logistics, lack of political and financial commitment as well as a shortage of healthcare workers in these communities to name a few are some of the barriers preventing vaccinations and to overcome them, investments in partnership activities and in-market programs must be made.

Immunization is vital to community building, growth and engagements as expanding access to immunization is vital for achieving the sustainable development goals, poverty reduction and universal health coverage. Routine immunization provides a point of contact for health care at the beginning of life and offers every child the chance at a healthy life from the earliest beginnings and into a graceful old age. Contact: