What you need to know:
- Keeping children healthy ensures that they are able to attend school
- The ultimate goal of an immunisation programme is elimination of vaccine preventable diseases
Immunisation is one of the greatest public health achievements in combating infectious diseases.
Unlike other health interventions, vaccination is a cost effective strategy with far-reaching benefits even in poor and marginalised populations.
Vaccinated children are protected from deadly infectious diseases such as bacterial pneumonia and diarrhoea that have been among the top five killers of children aged below five years.
Keeping children healthy ensures that they are able to attend school and have a chance at becoming economically productive adults.
The ultimate goal of an immunisation programme is elimination of vaccine preventable diseases or at the very least, reduction to very low community transmission levels where they no longer cause outbreaks and deaths.
Worldwide small pox eradication in 1979 remains the greatest achievement of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, which was created in 1974 in a bid to ramp up vaccination of children against the leading and deadliest vaccine preventable diseases.
For diseases to be reduced to levels where transmission is very low with eventual elimination, sustained immunisation coverage of more than 90 per cent is required. This means that efforts must move towards addressing immunisation gaps.
The past one year has seen countries grapple with the catastrophic consequences of Covid-19.
Mitigation and preventive strategies have not proved effective in curbing the rapid spread of infection, including new variants that continue to emerge from various countries.
The global death toll now stands at over 3.8 million with cumulative cases inching towards the 180 million mark. Kenya has not been spared and has so far seen three waves of infection surges. The strain on health systems has been severe.
Vaccination is the safest way to develop herd immunity. This is the concept of vaccinating a certain number of a population at risk of a disease to build immunity and hence break the cycle of transmission to unvaccinated members within the “herd” with eventual elimination of the disease.