Ethiopia concluded a 10-day measles vaccination campaign which reached more than 14 million children even as health authorities try to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and deliver essential services.
The campaign, which was to be conducted in April, had been postponed due to disruptions occasioned by the pandemic.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Health led the campaign, targeting 15 million children who were less than five years, with support from World Health Organization (W.H.O.), UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The W.H.O. said that vaccinators had been trained on COVID-19 prevention measures while members of the communities were informed of the campaign and encouraged to avail themselves.
The W.H.O. had previously warned that the COVID-19 pandemic threatened significant disruptions to vaccination efforts and surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases in Africa.
However, the result of this campaign, which attained 96 percent coverage, was evidence that countries can continue to carry out life-saving mass vaccinations, according to the W.H.O.,
“By taking the appropriate measures, we can continue to provide essential services while striving to end this pandemic. Millions of children are at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases and waiting for the end of COVID-19 to restart immunization campaigns is a gamble we cannot afford,” W.H.O. Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said.
Measles is a highly contagious disease and one of the leading causes of death among young children globally despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. The W.H.O. estimates that more than 50,000 people, mainly children under five years, were killed by the disease in Africa in 2018.
According to the W.H.O., only 10 of the 47 countries in the W.H.O. African Region are on track to achieve the 2020 measles elimination target of reducing new infections to less than one per one million population.