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While the world is focused on critically important new vaccines to protect people against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health has underscored the need to ensure that routine vaccinations are not missed.

The department made the remarks as South Africa joins the global community in commemorating World Immunisation Week to promote the importance of vaccination, by bringing people together and improving the health and wellbeing of everyone. 

World Immunisation Week is commemorated every year in the last week of April to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

World Immunisation Week 2021 will be commemorated under the theme, ‘Vaccines bring us closer’, which calls for greater engagement around immunisation to promote the importance of vaccination in bringing people together and improving their health and wellbeing. 

In a statement on Friday, the department noted that many children were not vaccinated, since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. This leaves them at risk of serious vaccine preventable diseases including measles, polio, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis B, TB, haemophilus influenza, diarrhoea, and pneumococcal infections, which cost humanity hundreds of millions of lives.  

“In South Africa, about 298 935 children missed their routine immunisation since the beginning of COVID-19 lockdown, which suggests that they might be vulnerable to childhood diseases,” the department said.  

Immunisation catch-up drive

Meanwhile, the department, in collaboration with various stakeholders, has embarked on a countrywide immunisation catch-up drive to ensure that children are up-to-date with their immunisation schedule.

This is especially for those who missed routine vaccines, and other child health services as a result of interruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Immunisation saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful health interventions. In this context, this year’s campaign will aim to build solidarity, and trust in vaccination as a public good that saves lives and protects health,” the department said.  

In order to ensure the safety of children and healthcare workers, the department reminded parents, caregivers and other community members to comply with all COVID-19 protocols whenever they visit health facilities for child immunisation and other health services.


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