Coronavirus (1254) African vaccine champion on lessons from ending wild polio

30 April, 2021

Extracts below from a news item 29 April on the WHO Africa Regional Office website. Read in full: https://www.afro.who.int/news/african-vaccine-champion-lessons-ending-wi...

--

Abuja – Vaccines save millions of lives each year. In August 2020, Africa crossed a historic milestone when it was certified as free of wild polio. Vaccination drives, reaching up to 220 million African children multiple times every year, were integral to achieving this historic milestone.

Dr Tunji Funsho is a Nigerian cardiologist and Chair of Rotary International’s PolioPlus Committee in Nigeria. In 2020 he was listed as one of Time magazine 100 most influential people for his contribution to the fight against polio in Africa. Here he shares lessons on the crucial role of vaccines and the work still needed to end all forms of the poliovirus...

The wild virus continues to circulate in Pakistan and Afghanistan and that remains a primary challenge. We must keep working to vaccinate every last child and strengthen routine immunization to keep immunity levels high so the virus does not return to Africa...

Vaccine hesitancy and misinformation is a growing challenge. How can we combat the spread of misinformation and build confidence and trust in vaccines?

This is a growing challenge, but not a new one. For example, in Kano in 2004, there was a huge outbreak of wild polio as a result of a vaccine boycott instituted by state and community leaders based on many false beliefs...

In Nigeria, Rotary and its partners are educating a variety of groups (health workers, media, government, traditional and religious leaders, etc.) about the importance of COVID-19 immunization and are also dispelling vaccine myths and misinformation online.

And Rotary clubs and members throughout the country are working with political leaders to secure COVID-19 immunization support and are also preparing to develop and share pro-vaccination messaging (for example, radio ads) and help people register for vaccination appointments.

--

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator, neil@hifa.org www.hifa.org