To avoid being caught pants down again, accelerate integration of Covid-19 into routine immunization

Noellah Musundi

What you need to know:

African nations need to collaborate on an unprecedented scale, sharing resources, knowledge, and best practices to succeed in this field

Covid-19 is still one of the major events in history that caught the whole world unawares. Countries, both developed and developing, wandered into the dark, as the pandemic ravaged the earth, trying to find a tangible solution.

Through massive, but swift inventions marred with trial and error, several vaccines were born. It soon became one of the international unwritten laws where Covid-19 vaccines became mandatory for anyone who wanted to travel to another country.

Although Covid-19 vaccination was not that largely embraced and taken within the African continent, despite the numerous challenges of accessing the same, it played a major role in watering down the devastating impacts of the pandemic.

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 as no longer a threat to the world, it is encouraging to see efforts by bodies such as the Africa CDC and Mastercard Foundation, trying and working around the clock to make Covid-19 vaccines and others.

The truth is, that Africa and the world are not out of the woods when it comes to Covid-19. There have been reports of new infections in China and the United States of America (USA) with calls on people to continue being cautious and not to throw all the precautions to the wind.

If there is something that Covid-19 ever taught the one is the need to always be prepared. It taught the world that a simple cough can change the world; lead to massive deaths, strangle businesses, and cause massive loss of jobs, among others.

There is no running away from the fact that Covid-19 is here to stay. We are living within the new norm that long shifted how the world should work and operate. With this in mind, the African continent shouldn’t be left behind. Neither should it ever depend on other developed countries. The remnants of vaccines should the world face another pandemic or the reincarnation of Covid-19.

But what best strategy can Africa and the world adopt to always keep Covid-19 at bay?

How about the acceleration of integrating Covid-19 into routine immunization? This will be a huge breakthrough, not just for Africa but the world at large. This will be one of the first and best steps to the full realization that Covid-19 is within and among us and that there is a need to continue preventing it, even when nothing seems to be happening.

To make this work, innovation will play a major role in catapulting the process. In a world where innovation dictates virtually everything, nothing is likely to succeed within the health sector without nations going ham on innovation. It is encouraging to see African nations pioneering innovative vaccination strategies, leveraging mobile clinics and community outreach programs to ensure no one is left behind in the race against Covid-19. These initiatives have not only accelerated the vaccination process but also strengthened healthcare infrastructures.

At the same time, there is a need to position communities at the center of all vaccine integration plans. There is no doubt that communities across Africa have played a pivotal role not just in this endeavor but in many others. With robust awareness campaigns and grassroots mobilization efforts, people will actively embrace vaccination, dispelling myths and misconceptions that have often derailed the efforts.

In the current world, data-driven decision-making is what informs every successful project. The integration process has to be guided by data-driven decision-making. Surveys and questionnaires, though some seem archaic, should be meticulously designed to gather insights, ensuring a targeted and effective vaccination drive.

But we cannot do this alone. Not as individual countries, and not just as a continent. We need global collaboration. African nations need to collaborate on an unprecedented scale, sharing resources, knowledge, and best practices to succeed in this field. This collaborative effort will not only accelerate vaccine distribution but also bolster research and development initiatives, paving the way for future healthcare advancements.

Ms Noellah Musundi is a development communication expert.