TANZANIA—Tanzania has initiated the incorporation of COVID-19 integration into routine immunization at various health facilities nationwide following a successful launch.

In this recent initiative, the World Health Organization (WHO) is actively supporting the government in managing a recent measles outbreak in the Tanga region.

The initiative involves a team of around 447 health professionals, including healthcare workers, recorders, and mobilizers, along with 86 supervisors from the region and five councils.

This crucial effort is made possible with the support of the Government of Canada’s Canada Grant for Vaccine Equity (Can GIVE).

Moreover, WHO and the government continue to advocate for COVID-19 immunization, especially targeting the elderly, healthcare workers, and individuals with comorbidities.

Dr. Japhet Simeo, the Regional Medical Officer for the Tanga region, emphasized that the primary goal is to reach every eligible child to break the chain of the measles outbreak.

Measles, being a highly contagious airborne disease, poses severe complications and mortality risks.

Despite the availability of a safe and cost-effective measles vaccine, the global scenario reveals concerning statistics.

In 2021 alone, there were an estimated 128,000 measles deaths globally, predominantly among unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children under the age of 5.

In 2022, only about 83% of the world’s children received one dose of the measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services, marking the lowest since 2008.

Dr. Simeo expressed a dedicated commitment to protecting and saving lives through interventions and the integration of COVID-19 vaccines for adults.

As an illustration, Farida, a resident aged 34, was administered a second dose of the measles vaccine and a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, emphasizing the importance of immunization for her child and herself.

During the ongoing 5-day intensive immunization campaign, which targets over 42,000 children aged 9 to 59 months and over 37,000 individuals over the age of 18, other standard vaccines such as polio, penta3, DPT, and rotavirus are offered based on each child’s situation.

Dr. William Mwengee, WHO’s National Surveillance Officer, highlighted that the response to the measles outbreak integrated with COVID-19 in the Tanga region is evidence of Tanzania adopting a new standard.

These standards mandate the integration of COVID-19 into primary healthcare with WHO’s technical leadership and financial support.

Confirmed cases have been reported in various districts such as Handeni Town Council, Kilindi, Korogwe, Mkinga, and Handeni districts as of November 2023, and health workers, along with WHO, are actively implementing the Periodic Review Plan on the ground.

The intensification of routine immunity (PIRI), characterized by intermittent vaccination exercises dependent on the disease’s epidemiology, is a key strategy to break the chain of disease spread.