Africa Vaccination Week (AVW) is celebrated annually across different countries within the continent. The annual event is an initiative of the World Health Organization that aims to strengthen immunization in Africa. This is achieved through programs that increase awareness of the importance of every person’s need and right to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, particularly every child and woman.
This year, AVW took place between the 19th and 25th of April. To celebrate the week, the University of Pretoria’s One Health for Change (UP-OHC) held an awareness event at Ikusasa Comprehensive School in Tembisa, east of Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. The event was coordinated by Mr. Tedson Nkoana, UP-OHC Education and Marketing officer, accompanied by virology MSc students from UPs Centre for Viral Zoonoses, Ms. Dineo Molewa, and Mr. Tauya Muvengi. Pupils and teachers from the school were in attendance and participated in an interactive conversation and other activities on vaccines and diseases. On the day, a presentation was held on the history of vaccines, vaccinated diseases, and disease outbreaks in Africa.
An interesting revelation on the day was that most pupils were not aware that the series of inoculations that babies get are actually vaccines for childhood immunization against viruses such as hepatitis B, measles, and polio. An interactive discussion was held about the SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) vaccine and why it was developed so quickly as opposed to other vaccines. Ms. Dineo Molewa and Mr. Tauya Muvengi engaged the audience on this and highlighted the high input of retrospective knowledge, resources, technological advancements, and capital that went into the development of the vaccine contributed to the relatively rapid development of the vaccine.
At the end of the event, pupils competed with each other in a fun-filled quiz to recap on the presentation and the topics discussed on the day. Pupils took down notes (a delight to their potential as young academics) and this really helped them engage in the quiz and they got most of the questions correct. Educational posters on common diseases affecting communities such as anthrax, brucellosis, cysticercosis, leptospirosis, rabies, and tuberculosis were given to the school.