An exciting educational day to mark World Immunization Week was held at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on 30 April 2015. World Immunization Week, from the 24th– 30th April, signals a renewed global, regional, and national effort to accelerate action to increase awareness and demand for immunization by communities, and improve vaccination delivery services.
The global theme for World Immunization Week 2015 was ‘Close the Immunization Gap’, focusing on equalizing vaccination levels for the major vaccines outlined in the Global Vaccine Action Plan. Of particular relevance to South Africa are vaccines against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Hepatitis B, Pneumococcal and Rotavirus as well as Haemophilus influenzae type b and Human papillomavirus vaccines. African Vaccination Week celebrated the theme: ‘Vaccination – A Gift of Life’, marking an opportunity for countries to strengthen immunization services and systems through advocacy, education and communication tools and activities.
The Centre for Vaccines and Immunology at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases hosted a line-up of esteemed speakers for the event, which was opened by the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Professor Shabir Madhi, Director of the Institute, highlighted possible opportunities for prevention of neonatal and early infant mortality through maternal immunization. Professor Helen Rees, Director of the Reproductive Health Institute, discussed whether South Africa would be ready to meet measles elimination targets. Professor Anne von Gottberg, co-head of the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis, highlighted the impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in South Africa in 2015. Dr Michelle Groome from the Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Unit, University of the Witwatersrand highlighted advances from rotavirus vaccination in South Africa. Dr Nonhlanhla Dlamini, chief director Child, Youth and School Health, drew attention to progress and challenges of the routine immunization programme in the country. Dr Cheryl Cohen, Co-head of the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis, took an in depth look at influenza vaccination for pregnant women. Dr Melinda Suchard, Head of the Centre for Vaccines and Immunology, spoke on the clinician’s role in public health surveillance with regards to polio eradication and measles elimination. Dr Messeret Eshetu and Dr Fussum Daniel gave perspectives from the World Health Organisation regarding which priorities should be South Africa’s focus in the coming years.
Participants included more than 150 delegates including clinicians, laboratory staff, academics and industry representatives. Please find links below for the presentations from the day.