(170829) -- SOUTH JAKARTA, Aug. 29, 2017 (Xinhua) -- A Paramedic staff holds Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccine at Kak Seto Home Schooling in South Tangerang. Aug. 29, 2017. The Government of Indonesia launched a national measles-rubella immunization to all Indonesian children between the ages of nine months and 15 years.(Xinhua/Agung Kuncahya B.) (yy)
While Africa has made progress towards increasing access to immunisation, and South Africa has become a pioneer in introducing a new vaccine, there is still a lack of awareness among the population on the health benefits of being immunised.

This is according to Richard Mihingo, programme co-ordinator for immunisation and vaccine delivery.

The Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (Ritag) - which consists of 15 immunisation experts from various fields including government bodies, academia, clinical practice and public health, among others - provides strategic guidance to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to Mihingo, through the years immunisation has proved to have contributed greatly to public health care. The first disease which has completely been eradicated through immunisation is smallpox.

“We are on the verge of eradicating polio, which is a deadly disease that is crippling our population.

“We are almost there in terms of eradicating diseases through vaccinations but there are other diseases we are controlling through immunisation, including meningitis, said Mihingo.

He was speaking to The Sunday Independent at the WHO Africa Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group seminar in Sandton last week.

He said West Africa was often where deadly outbreaks were started.

“The remarkable thing about South Africa is that it has introduced domestic resources, and these are the vaccines that are preventing diarrhoea, as well as pneumonia and meningitis in children.

"South Africa also introduced (a vaccine for) HPV (Human Papillomavirus) that causes cancer or cervical cancer.”

The Ritag meeting was also an opportunity to assess the status of immunisation in Africa and evaluate persistent challenges towards achieving regional and global goals, including targets set in the Regional Strategic Plan for Immunisation and the Global Vaccine Action Plan.

“Africans are becoming quite strong. At family and community level where people need to understand that by being immunised they protect their own. When a child is immunised against measles, he cannot transmit it to another child.

“So it’s quite important to sensitise our communities to adhere to immunisation services because once we get a level of protection with immunity, this is when we stop the transmission of the disease,” Mihingo said.