WHO report claims vaccines saved about 51.2 million African lives over past 50 years.


A new report by World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown that an estimated 51.2 million lives have been saved through vaccines in the African region over the past 50 years.

For every infant life saved over that period, according to the report, close to 60 years of life are lived.

The report, which assessed the life-saving impact of vaccines, was released on Wednesday at the start of this year’s African Vaccination Week and World Immunisation Week being marked from April 24 to 30 under the theme “Safeguarding Our Future: Humanly Possible.”

It noted that achievements have been made, including reduction in measles deaths, with an estimated 19.5 million deaths averted over the last 22 years.

The region also reportedly witnessed a sharp decline in meningitis deaths by up to 39 percent in 2019 compared with 2000.

Maternal and neonatal tetanus had nearly been eliminated in the region, and in a historic public health achievement, the African region was reported to had been declared free of indigenous wild poliovirus in 2022 following years of relentless work to protect every child from the virus.

The rollout of new vaccines such as the first ever malaria vaccine, and expansion of existing vaccines, such as for HPV, which protected against the leading cause of cervical cancer, is also said to set up future generations in Africa with an opportunity to thrive.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, in his report said: “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.

“We have half a century of momentum and have accomplished so much. Now we must sustain and expand vaccine equity to end the threat of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, noted that the evidence was clear that vaccines were one of the most impactful and cost-effective investments in health and development in history.

Maphosa recalled that over the past two decades, Gavi had worked with 40 African countries to expand immunisation coverage while delivering new innovations like the HPV and malaria vaccines and responding to deadly outbreaks – saving millions of lives and generating billions in economic benefits.

“With climate change, crises and the threat of infectious disease on the rise it is more important than ever that governments invest in immunization to help ensure everyone, everywhere has an equal opportunity for a safe and healthy future,” Maphosa said.

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