African Heads of State commit to universal access to immunisation

pharmafile | February 1, 2017 | News story | Medical Communications, Research and Development Africa, Vaccine, WHO, immunisation 

The Heads of State convened from across Africa to ratify the Addis Declaration on Immunization (ADI). The pledge commits to universal access to immunisation across Africa by 2020.

The ADI was signed in February 2016 and, a year later, the Heads of State committed once again to the aims outlined within the declaration. It is noted by the WHO report that the primary aim, of universal immunisation, is currently off-track, with one in five children in Africa not receiving basic life-saving vaccines. Currently measles is responsible for 61,000 deaths on the continent every year, a figure that could be reduced dramatically with increased access to immunisation.

“We know that universal access to immunization is achievable,” said outgoing African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. “The Addis Declaration on Immunization is a historic pledge. With political support at the highest levels, we are closer than ever to ensuring that all children in Africa have an equal shot at a healthy and productive life.”

Though the aim of universal access to immunisation may not be reached by 2020, progress has been made across the continent in a rapid fashion. There has been a 50% decline in child death rates related to higher vaccine coverage rates in each five-year period from 1999 to 2014. Polio, for instance, has nearly been eradicated from the continent with increased immunisation access.

“Vaccines are among the most effective public health tools available,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa. “When children are given a healthy start, communities thrive and economies grow stronger. This show of support from Heads of State is a significant step forward in our efforts to achieve universal access to immunization and, ultimately, improve child health and drive sustainable development across Africa.”

As Moeti identifies, this is what the pledge represents – a further market of conviction to the cause of widening access to immunisation. This is particularly important as Gavi support, an international global Vaccine Alliance, reduces support to countries on the African continent. Currently fewer than 15 African countries provided more than 50% of funding for their national immunisation programmes.

Ben Hargreaves

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