By Omar Bah
A senior immunisation officer at UNICEF-Gambia, Buya Jallow has warned that the coronavirus pandemic which is confronting families around the country could expose number of children to the risk of contaminating other deceases due to the huge decline in immunisation.
As the world immunisation week is commemorated, parents around the globe continue to face an urgent challenge on how to protect themselves and their children from the spread of the Covid-19.
April 24 to 30th is commemorated as world immunisation week, known as Africa Vaccination Week, as an opportunity to further raise awareness on the importance of vaccine especially for pregnant women and children.
Buya Jallow, whose job at UNICEF is to mainly support the Ministry of Health immunisation programme told The Standard that although all the country’s public health facilities are rendering vaccination to children, large number of Gambian children could remain unvaccinated.
“It is very good that all our public health facilities continue to render services. However, we are seeing less people going for this service which is a big concern for us because wherever you have large number of children unvaccinated, they are at risk of catching deceases,” she warned.
She said vaccination is one of the most comprehensive and effective public health interventions worldwide.
“Vaccines provide protection against many deceases. So there are lot of deceases for example; polio that we don’t see any more and these are all due to the success of vaccines. In fact, Gambia has some of the highest immunisation coverages in the region which has paralysed many deceases that are still persistent in other neighbouring countries. But we are worried that if children don’t receive this vaccine, they will be at risk of catching these deceases,” she said.
She said regular vaccination is one reason why the West African country doesn’t record lot of pandemics.
Aja Kandeh, a senior programme officer at the Ministry of Health said the importance of immunisation cannot be overemphasised as it saves millions of lives around the globe.
She said the ministry of health has urged for vaccinations to continue unabated despite the current predicament of Covid-19 but with strict adherence to the guidelines recommended by WHO on social distancing to avoid spreading the virus.
“A memo was written and signed by the director of health services and distributed to all health services to recommend them to continue immunisation but by limiting people coming for vaccination at a given time and ensure strict screening for all,” she said.
Covid-19 vaccine Two prominent French doctors triggered a storm of criticism after discussing on a television programme the idea of testing a vaccine for coronavirus in Africa.
Reacting to the French doctors’ controversial suggestion, the health senior programme officer said: “The Gambia is very careful about vaccines. This is why we are buying all our vaccines through UNICEF. We will not sit and watch any vaccine to be produced somewhere and be tested in the Gambia. I want to assure people that any vaccine that The Gambia introduce has been certified by the World Health Organisation.”
Scientists who carry out clinical trials try to find conditions in which large numbers of people are exposed to the disease, as this gives a better opportunity for testing a new drug.
Such trials are carried out under strict supervision, which requires volunteers to be briefed about any risks and to give their informed consent.
But the idea of having Africa as a setting for a coronavirus vaccine is controversial.