African Ministers Pledge to Improve Access to Vaccines

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With one in five African children lacking access to basic life-saving vaccines, African ministers of health recently committed themselves to keep immunization at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality, morbidity and disability.
At a landmark Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa recently held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the ministers signed a declaration to promote the use of vaccines to protect people against vaccine-preventable diseases and to close the immunisation gap by 2020.
“Our children are our most precious resource, yet one in five fail to receive all the immunisations they need to survive and thrive, leaving millions vulnerable to preventable disease,” said Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health.
“This is not acceptable. African children’s lives matter. We must work together to ensure the commitments we make in Addis Ababa translate into results”.
The conference hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) in conjunction with the African Union Commission (AUC), was the first-ever ministerial-level gathering with a singular focus on ensuring that children across the continent can get access to vaccines.
A new report issued at the conference paints a mixed picture on vaccine access, delivery systems and immunisation equity in Africa but it indicates that Rwanda’s immunisation coverage stands at 99 per cent – a feat attributed to improving routine immunisation and new vaccine introductions.
In June 2016, Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, will present the Declaration to the African Heads of States at the 26th Summit of the African Union.
Support from Heads of State will further empower countries to increase efforts to mobilize resources for national immunization programs.
The declaration commits countries to increasing domestic financial investments in order to deliver routine immunizations and roll out new vaccines. The economic benefits of immunization greatly outweigh the costs, with recent research showing the benefits of preventing illness and lost productivity to be 16 times greater than the required investment in vaccines.
“We all agree that vaccines are one of the most cost-effective solutions in global health. Investing in immunisation programs will enable African countries to see an outstanding economic benefit,” said Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Gavi Board and former Finance Minister of Nigeria.
The Ministerial Conference offered African policymakers and advocates a platform to discuss strategies for tackling the biggest challenges facing vaccine efforts; foster country ownership for sustainable financing for immunization; and advocate for greater engagement with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable demand for immunization.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said: “Now, we will carry this momentum forward from Addis Ababa, stay accountable to our commitments and close the immunization gap once and for all”.
“With the right mix of political will, financial resources and technical acumen, Africa is positioned to make an incredible leap in immunisation coverage,” said Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
Source: New Times

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