A baby being given a vaccine
African heads of state at the 28th African Union (AU) summit have committed to expanding immunisation on the continent by increasing vaccine-related funding, strengthening supply chains and delivery systems and making universal access to vaccines a cornerstone of health and development effort.
This was contained in the Addis-Ababa Declaration on Universal Access to Immunisation in Africa in which the heads of state endorsed the Declaration on Immunisation which will ensure that everyone in Africa, regardless of who they are or where they live, receives the full benefits of immunisation.
While Africa has made impressive gains over the last 15 years toward increasing access to immunisation, progress has stagnated, and the continent is falling behind on meeting global immunisation targets.
One in five children in Africa still does not receive basic life-saving vaccines and, as a result, vaccine-preventable diseases continue to claim too many lives.
Fewer than 15 African countries fund more than 50 percent of their national immunisation programmes. As Africa nears polio eradication, critical funding for immunisation through the polio eradication programme is expected to ramp down.
Additionally, countries approaching middle-income status will transition away from GAVI support for immunisation in the coming years. Consequently, governments must redouble their efforts to make universal immunisation coverage a national priority.
The outgoing AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said the universal access to immunisation was attainable in Africa, especially with the political support at the highest levels.
“With political support, we are closer than ever to ensuring that all children in Africa have an equal shot at a healthy and productive life,” she mentioned.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, said the adaptation of the declaration by the heads of state is a significant step forward in the efforts to achieve universal access to immunization, and ultimately improve child health and drive sustainable development across Africa.
“As long as even one child in Africa lacks access to immunisation, our work remains unfinished. With the right mix of political will, financial resources and technical acumen, Africa can – and will – stem the tide of vaccine-preventable diseases across the continent,” Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of GAVI, stated that it was time to ensure that the commitments translate into sustainable financing for immunisation, adding that GAVI stands ready to support African countries in their efforts to implement equitable health approaches and maintain strong immunisation coverage.
The Addis Declaration on Immunisation (ADI) was signed by ministers of health and other line ministers at the Ministerial Conference on Immunisation in Africa (MCIA) in February 2016 in Addis Ababa.
MCIA was the first-ever ministerial-level gathering, with a singular focus on ensuring that children across the continent can access life-saving vaccines.
To guide the implementation of the ADI, a roadmap is being developed in close collaboration with the WHO offices in the African region and Eastern Mediterranean region, the African Union Commission and immunisation partners.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri