During African Vaccination Week, which ran from 23 to 29 April 2018, the public were encouraged to help prevent the spread of illness and disease through immunisation. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Vaccines work, do your part”.

“Vaccinations provide effective protection against a number of serious illnesses such as polio, diphtheria, mumps, measles and tetanus, among others. We should all ensure that our families, children in particular, are vaccinated in line with the recommendations of the Department of Health,” says Dr Vuyo Gqola, GEMS Executive: Healthcare Management.

In 2014, the South African Department of Health rolled out a school–based Human Papillomavirus (HVP) vaccination campaign for the prevention of cervical cancer, aimed at all girls aged nine years and older.

“There is an established link between certain strains of HPV and cervical cancer, which is a leading cause of death for women in South Africa. The girls who have received the HPV vaccine will have a considerably reduced risk of developing cervical cancer and several other types of cancer.”

“We are likely to start seeing the positive impact of this campaign in the next 15 to 20 years, when the first generation of girls to have received the HPV vaccination will reach the age where these types of cancer are more likely to develop,” Dr Gqola says.

While no vaccine to protect against HIV has been clinically proven yet, there is a significant global research effort focused on developing such a vaccination. 

“We hope that one day our grandchildren will benefit from an HIV vaccine and that they may only learn about the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS in history books. For now, we must rely on awareness of the importance of prevention of HIV through other methods, such as practicing safe sex and avoiding contact with bodily fluids.

“It is in the best interests of our children’s welfare, ourselves, our communities, and our country to stop diseases in their tracks through ensuring we are vaccinated against illnesses that can be prevented through this means. If we work together and embrace prevention measures such as vaccinations, South Africa will be a healthier and more prosperous country for generations to come,” Dr Gqola concludes.