World Immunization Week – Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and partners commit to improve vaccination coverage against COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases in Somalia

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An elderly man receives the COVID-19 vaccine in De Martini Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia on March 29, 2021. In mid-March 2021, 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Somalia. This first consignment of vaccines is being used to vaccinate frontline workers, elderly and people with chronic health conditions. Somalia is among the first African countries to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine delivered through the COVAX Facility.

MOGADISHU, 30 April 2021 – Vaccines protect us against preventable diseases, including COVID-19. They bring us closer to a healthier world and are permissible to be taken during the holy month of Ramadan — these are the main messages the Federal Ministry of Health and Human Services, World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Somalia are sharing this World Immunization Week, running from
24 to 30 April 2021. On this occasion, the Federal Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF are renewing their commitments to ensure that every child is counted for vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases.

This year, World Immunization Week comes at a time when the country is conducting one of its largest, much-needed vaccination campaigns, against COVID-19. Every year, during the last week of April, World Immunization Week is observed to encourage the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. The theme for this year is ‘vaccines bring us closer’ – to encourage greater global participation around immunization and to demonstrate to communities, politicians and other audiences that vaccines do indeed bring families, communities and countries closer together.

With support from the Federal and State Governments of Somalia, WHO, UNICEF and other agencies have been providing vaccines – while observing COVID-19 protocol since last year– to Somalis of all ages and backgrounds – against preventable diseases such as measles, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b, cholera, tuberculosis, polio and now against COVID-19.

Since the resumption of mass vaccination campaigns, which had been paused due to the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020, Somali authorities, with support from WHO, UNICEF and other partners, have conducted five targeted campaigns and one nationwide campaign, where approximately three million children were offered vaccines to protect them from polio. In addition, 514,567 (83% of the target) and 450,983 (73% of the target) children aged under one year received pentavalent 1 and pentavalent 3 vaccines respectively. Overall, 433,863 (70% of the target) children aged under one year received their first doses of measles vaccines to protect them against this highly infectious disease.

“Smallpox’s last resting place was in Somalia. But, thanks to concerted and collaborative efforts, we were able to eliminate the disease. Polio is on the verge of being eradicated. In reality, with the help of partners, Somalia’s circulating poliovirus type 3 (cVDPV3) outbreak was successfully stopped this year, 28 months after it was reported, with no further international spread from our country. That should suffice to convince us that we can do it again. If we act now and together, we will stop the spread of all vaccine-preventable diseases,” said HE Dr Fawziya Abikar Nur, Minister of Health and Human Services, Federal Government of Somalia. “However, politicians, our foreign and national partners, societies, parents, women, youth, scholars, the private sector, NGOs and donors all have a role to play. We should all play a role in ensuring that Somalis receive vaccines appropriate for their age groups. Since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine on 16 March 2021, and until 28 April 2021, 121,743 people in Somalia had received their first doses of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine to protect them from COVID-19. The uptake remains considerably low (at 40.6%) though. There is a need to increase the uptake of vaccinations, by health workers, frontline workers, elderly populations and people suffering from chronic illnesses, with the first batch of 300,000 vaccines — which arrived in the country on 15 March 2021.”

“We are at a critical time, where we can save humanity from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as we have tools like vaccines to protect people. In Somalia, we remain concerned that the current uptake of the vaccine is not optimal. The pandemic will not end if it doesn’t end in Somalia and other conflict-affected countries with very weak and fragile health systems,” said Dr Mamunur Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia.

Addressing people’s concerns regarding the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine during Ramadan, Dr Malik explained, “I want to assure people that two Fatwas have been issued by the Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA), the co-chairs of the Islamic Advisory Group. The Fatwas offer advice that it is permissible to take COVID-19 vaccinations, as this vaccine goes into the muscles, not bloodstream. We must share information with our loved ones and friends about the benefits of vaccination. In the last decade, at least 10 million deaths have been prevented by vaccines, and more lives have been saved by vaccines in the history of medicine. Vaccines are the most cost-effective health technology ever invested in, during the history of our civilization. We are responsible for our health and that of our children. We should support them in accessing vaccines for their age too. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Since March 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed, this had an impact on all health programmes, including routine immunization. An estimated,186,000 children missed their first doses of the measles vaccine in 2020 and around half a million are missing out on polio vaccines, also due to limited access and insecurity.

However, the Government, WHO, UNICEF and partners are working to ensure health facilities and personnel use all precautions possible while delivering services.

“The devastating COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the world how important and effective vaccines are,” said Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “Vaccines protect us from life-threatening diseases and safeguard our future health. It is critical that we accelerate COVID-19 vaccinations and scale up routine immunization especially for children in hard to reach areas. Reaching and protecting these children is a priority.”

In last quarter of 2021, the Somali Federal Government, WHO and UNICEF and other partners have plans to introduce a second dose of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and measles vaccines as part of the routine immunization programme, now being extended to children older than one year of age. This will boost their immunity, particularly in the event they may have missed one dose of measles or polio vaccines when younger.

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For additional information, kindly contact:

Khadar Hussein –Coordination and Communication Office, Ministry of Health and Human Services, Federal Government of Somalia – coordination@moh.gov.so; +252 615 602 637

Fouzia Bano –Chief of Staff ai, Communications Officer, WHO Somalia – banof@who.int; +252 619 235 880

Dheepa Pandian –Communication Chief, UNICEF Somalia – dpandian@unicef.org; +252 613 375 885

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Note to Editors

A statement from the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) covers both the permissibility of all COVID-19 vaccines and of using Zakat to procure and distribute the vaccine among poor countries/communities. It can be found here: