Immunisation: African leaders pledge ‘massive’ political, financial investments

African heads of state and governments meeting in Addis Ababa this week at the African Union summit have pledged to increase political and financial investments to advance their countries’ immunisation programmes, reports from Ethiopia said.

This is to ensure that everyone – regardless of who they are or where they live – receives the full benefits of immunisation.

The pledge is contained in a ‘historic’ document called the ‘Declaration on Universal Access to Immunisation in Africa’, which includes commitments such as increasing vaccine-related funding, strengthening supply chains and delivery systems, and making universal access to vaccines a cornerstone of health and development efforts.

While Africa is said to have made impressive gains over the last 15 years toward increasing access to immunisation, but progress has stagnated, analysts said, adding that the continent was falling behind on meeting global immunisation targets.

It is believed that 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.

Measles alone accounts for approximately 61 000 preventable deaths in the African region every year.

“We know that universal access to immunisation is achievable,” outgoing African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said. “The Addis Declaration on Immunisation 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.”

However, signing a mere document is easier than applying the contents in real life. Critics have warned against declaring victory before the end of the game, as African leaders are known the world over at being speciliasts at talking and signing too much than fulfilling their pledges.

One African country that appears to have made a wonderful progress in immunisation is Ethiopia. In 2010, Ethiopia built 16 000 new health centres and purchased 2 000 battery-free solar refrigerators for vaccine storage. It also built a network of millions of health extension workers and volunteers at community level to increase access to immunisation throughout the country.

As a result of these strong leadership-inspired investments, the Horn of Africa country has made remarkable gains, with immunisation rates soaring from 61% in 2010 to 86% in 2015, reports said.

Photo credit: SundiataPost

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