Pretoria - The Department of Health has encouraged parents across the country to immunise their children this week when the immunisation campaign kicks off today.
Themed "Immunisation saves lives: don't wait, vaccinate", the week-long campaign forms part of the government's efforts to reduce child mortality caused by diseases including polio, whooping cough and diphtheria.
During the awareness week, the department will inform and educate the public about the available vaccines at various health centres as well as the benefits of immunisation.
The department will also encourage parents and caregivers to take their children to health facilities for screening their immunisation status on their Road to Health Cards as well as offer catch-up vaccinations for all children who did not complete their immunisation.
"Immunisation forms an essential part of primary health care which is crucial in preventing the onset of diseases among young children in particular," said Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
According to current health reports of 2008/09 on children, the department achieved 88.8 percent immunisation coverage for children under the age of one, while 73 percent of children under the age of five were immunised in the same period.
Despite the non- occurrence of measles in 2008/9, no measles outbreak were reported during this period.
"The department strongly believes that the immunisation of South African children against measles will have to be strengthened going forward."
A number of activities have been planned by the provincial departments of health for the immunisation awareness week, these include community, school, clinics and hospital visits as well as conduct immunisation catch up activities.