"The cheapest health intervention is to wash your hands and vaccines are the second cheapest intervention. And as I said it helps save 3 million children every year and it will be part of saving us from this virus," said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the WHO (EMRO) Press Conference on World Immunization Week 2021 and COVID-19.
"The region historically has been known for its near universal vaccination coverage despite many humanitarian crises, conflicts and poverty. It is home to 55 million children under the age of five. And those children historically have been vaccinated. In the last year and despite COVID-19 and the interruptions of immunization campaigns in the Middle East and North Africa, we have nonetheless seen that immunization in this region is still largely back on track. And we continue to make the case for it to stay on track." He added.
At a global level, he also noted that UNICEF and WHO launched on April 26 the Immunization Agenda 2030, which is a comprehensive plan to maximize the impact of vaccination over the next decade. This agenda is a global strategy to maximize the impact of vaccines. It aims at saving 50 million lives by 2030, halve the number of children receiving zero dose of vaccines and achieve 90 per cent coverage for key vaccines over the next decade, throughout the world including in Middle East and North Africa.
UNICEF is the UN agency around the world that is responsible for procurement and delivery of vaccines for children. That is also true for our region.
In 2020, they were was able to deliver 136 million doses of vaccines in the Middle East and North Africa despite heavy restrictions including curfews, lockdowns and in many cases closure of airspace and non-availability of flights. These shipments included vaccines against polio, measles, tetanus, hepatitis, Diphtheria and TB among others.
This year – in 2021- we’re also on track as scheduled. We’ve been able to deliver 25 million doses of vaccines to this region and again to repeat that same level of coverage and availability of vaccines. Of those, 5 million doses were procured from the COVAX facility against the COVID-19 virus. And every country in the region, and for us it’s Middle East and North Africa, has now received vaccines.
The latest country to receive vaccines out of the COVAX facility was Syria with 256,000 doses delivered.
He concluded by saying; we will continue to work together to raise awareness about the importance, safety and efficacy of vaccines whether for children or for adults against covid-19."
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
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