Somalia, partners vow to expand vaccination coverage


ANKARA—Somalia’s Health Ministry and its partners have committed to improving vaccination coverage against COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases, according to a statement issued on Tuesday.

Vaccines bring people closer to a healthier world and are permissible to be taken during the holy month of Ramadan, read the statement released to mark World Immunization Week, observed annually from April 24 to April 30.

It said Somalia’s Health Ministry, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) renewed their commitments to ensure that every child is counted for vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases.

“The last place where smallpox existed was in Somalia. But, thanks to concerted and collaborative efforts, we were able to eliminate the disease. Polio, too, is now on the verge of being eradicated,” said Health Minister Fawziya Abikar Nur.

She said Somalia, with the help of partners, was successful in stopping an outbreak of the poliovirus type 3 (cVDPV3) this year, 28 months after it started, with no further spread from the Horn of Africa country.

“If we act now and together, we will stop the spread of all vaccine-preventable diseases,” Nur added.

By April 28, she said, 121,743 people in Somalia had received their first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab since the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout started on March 16.

“We are at a critical juncture where we can save humanity from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as we have tools like vaccines to protect people,” said Mamunur Malik, WHO representative for Somalia.

However, he added that there are concerns that the current acceptance 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,” he stressed.

Malik also sought to assure Muslims that there was nothing wrong with getting the vaccine during Ramadan.

“I want to assure people that two fatwas have been issued by the Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, 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,” he said.