Heads of State from across Africa this week adopted a Declaration on Universal Access to Immunization in Africa, in which they endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization, a historic and timely pledge to ensure that everyone in Africa – regardless of who they are or where they live – receives the full benefits of immunization. The endorsement was issued during the 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which took place on 28 to 31 January.
While Africa has made impressive gains over the last 15 years toward increasing access to immunization, progress has stagnated, and the continent is falling behind on meeting global immunization 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. Measles alone accounts for approximately 61,000 preventable deaths in the African region every year.
“We know that universal access to immunization is achievable,” noted 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.”
The Addis Declaration on Immunization calls for countries to increase political and financial investments in their immunization programmes. It includes 10 commitments, including increasing vaccine-related funding, strengthening supply chains and delivery systems, and making universal access to vaccines a cornerstone of health and development efforts. The full declaration can be found below.
“Vaccines are among the most effective public health tools available,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) 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.”
Botswana, Cabo Verde, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Swaziland and Uganda, were honoured for showing commitment and innovation in the fight against malaria. They each received the 2017 African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) Awards for Excellence at the summit.
“We are turning the tide on malaria in Africa,” said Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of ALMA. “The success is reflected in the countries ALMA honoured today. Our work is not done. We must remain focused to achieve our goal of a malaria-free Africa.”
The 2017 ALMA Awards for Excellence come just six months after the adoption of the ‘Catalytic Framework’ at the 27th African Union Summit last July. The framework provides a roadmap for African countries to increase domestic resources, expand the use of innovation and technology, and improve health infrastructure to eliminate malaria from the continent by 2030.
Fewer than 15 African countries fund more than 50 percentof their national immunization programmes. As Africa nears polio eradication, critical funding for immunization through the polio eradication programme is expected to ramp down. Additionally, countries approaching middle-income status will transition away from Gavi support for immunization in the coming years. Consequently, governments must redouble their efforts to make universal immunization coverage a national priority.
“As long as even one child in Africa lacks access to immunization, our work remains unfinished,” said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
“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.”