In view of growing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says it will inaugurate a new global campaign from April 24 to 30.
The campaign, according to the organisation, is to emphasise the power and safety of vaccines among parents and wider social media users.
Mr Robin Nandy, UNICEF’s Chief of Immunization, said this in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.
He said that the campaign would go alongside World Immunization Week from April 24 to 30.
The campaign tagged #VaccinesWork, according to Nandy, will spread the message that collaboration with communities, including parents can protect everyone through vaccines.
Nandy noted that UNICEF will use social media in its campaign to show that most parents trust vaccines to protect their children.
According to the him, vaccines save up to 3 million lives yearly, protecting children from potentially deadly, highly infectious diseases such as measles, pneumonia, cholera and diphtheria.
Nandy further noted that fewer people died from measles between 2000 and 2017, adding that polio is on the verge of being eradicated.
“This year, UNICEF is partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) and the Vaccine Alliance to encourage even greater reach.
“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute USD$1 to UNICEF for every like or share of social media posts using the hashtag #VaccinesWork this month up to USD$1 million, to ensure all children get the life-saving vaccines they need.
“Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective health tool ever invented – every USD$1 spent on childhood immunization returns up to USD$44 in benefits.
“We want the awareness that #VaccinesWork to go viral.
“Vaccines are safe and they save lives. This campaign is an opportunity to show the world that social media can be a powerful force for change and provide parents with trustworthy information on vaccines,” Nancy said.
Also, Violaine Mitchell, Interim Director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the campaign was part of a global, week-long celebration under the theme, “Protected Together: Vaccines Work”.
Mr Mitchell said it was to honour Vaccine Heroes from parents and community members to health workers and innovators.
She noted that in spite of the benefits of vaccines, an estimated 1.5 million children died of vaccine preventable diseases in 2017.
According to him, this is often due to lack of access to vaccines, in some countries, families are delaying or refusing to vaccinate their children because of complacency or skepticism about vaccines.
This, she noted, has resulted in several outbreaks, including an alarming surge in measles, especially in higher-income countries describing uncertainty about vaccines on digital and social media platforms as one of the factors driving this trend.
According to her, that is why the centerpiece of this UNICEF campaign is a 60-second animated film, “Dangers,” which along with illustrated animations for social media posts and posters.
“This is based on the relatable insight that kids, by their very nature, are little daredevils who are constantly putting themselves in danger.
“The video explains that while parents can’t prevent all the dangers their kids get themselves into, they can use vaccination to help prevent the dangers that get into their kids.
“More children than ever before are being reached with vaccines today.
“We are delighted to work with UNICEF and all the global and country partners around the world who are working tirelessly to ensure all children, especially those in the world’s poorest countries can be protected from life-threatening infectious diseases,” Mitchell said.
She noted that immunization coverage in Nigeria was only 57.2 per cent in 2018, describing it as far below the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) target of 90 per cent.
She however noted that the clear benefit of vaccines could be seen in the case of polio, where vaccines have been crucial in eradication efforts.
“The country has been free of any case of wild polio virus since September 2016 and is on track for being declared polio-free by the end of this year.
Similarly, Angélique Kidjo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Grammy Award-Winning Singer, said the success of polio vaccines in eliminating polio has among other factors been linked to the low cost and oral administration route of vaccines, enabling mass delivery.
Kidjo said: “Today, nine in 10 children receive immunizations, but we cannot leave anyone behind. We must reach every child with life-saving vaccines.”