Pandemic disruptions, increasing disparities in vaccine access, and the COVID-19-related shift from routine immunisation expose far too many children to vaccine-preventable diseases. Botswana must prioritise routine immunisation against common childhood diseases such as measles as it commemorates World Immunization Week and the historic advances made possible by vaccines.

The pandemic has hampered access to health and vaccination services in Botswana, as it has in many other countries. For all antigens used in routine immunisation, the vaccination rate for children under the age of one fell in 2021. The risk of disease outbreaks increases when routine vaccinations are missed. The need to redirect human and financial resources toward COVID-19 prevention and response, as well as the strain COVID-19 places on health-care infrastructure, all played a role in this situation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted immunisation services, overburdened health systems, and the impact on immunisation services will be felt for decades,” said UNICEF Representative Dr Joan Matji. “The time has come to reintroduce critical immunisation and launch catch-up campaigns to ensure that everyone has access to these life-saving vaccines.”

“While the pandemic disrupted several public health services in Botswana, including routine immunisation,” WHO Country Representative Dr. Josephine Namboze explained, “it also provided an opportunity to strengthen health system areas such as the cold chain and human resources for better service delivery.” WHO supports vaccines because they provide us with the opportunity and hope for a better life.

UNICEF and WHO are collaborating with partners to strengthen immunisation systems as countries work to respond to vaccine-preventable diseases and regain ground.

  • Helping the government close immunisation coverage gaps, including identifying communities and individuals who went unnoticed during the pandemic;
  • Ensuring that the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine is well integrated into overall immunisation service planning in order to protect childhood and other vaccination services;
  • Assisting the country in developing plans to prevent and respond to vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks, as well as strengthening immunisation systems, as part of COVID-19 recovery efforts.

World Immunization Week (2022) will be held from April 24 to 30, with the hashtag #LongLifeForAll.

The goal of World Immunization Week, which occurs in the last week of April, is to emphasise the value of collaboration and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages from disease.

WHO collaborates with governments all over the world to raise awareness about the importance of vaccines and immunisation, as well as to provide governments with the guidance and technical assistance they need to implement high-quality immunisation programmes. The ultimate goal of World Immunization Week is to protect as many people as possible – and their communities – from vaccine-preventable diseases.

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