World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) in collaboration with Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) and the African Union Commission will in February next year host the first ever Ministerial Conference on Immunisation.
The conference scheduled for February 24-25, 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will bring together African leaders, including ministers of health, finance, and technical experts, to discuss ways to ensure that people across the continent get access to life-saving vaccines.
The two-day conference will provide the platform for over 500 African policymakers and advocates to also celebrate progress toward expanding immunisation coverage; discuss strategies for tackling the biggest challenges facing vaccine efforts; foster country ownership for sustainable financing for immunisation; and advocate for greater engagement with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable demand for immunisation.
The conference will cover a range of topics, including sustainable financing for immunisation, the role of communities in driving coverage and demand for vaccines, building on the success of Africa’s polio eradication initiative, and building stronger systems to improve child health.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said; ‘The Ministerial Conference is a unique opportunity to secure buy-in at the highest levels for prioritising immunisation across the continent,’ adding; ‘With strong commitment from everyone, we can make universal access to immunisation a reality.’
She noted that WHO will in collaboration with the Ministerial conference, and PATH host an event to celebrate the success of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, which resulted in the first tailor-made vaccine for use against meningitis A in the 26 African countries in the meningitis belt.
The event will convene representatives from these countries and immunisation partners. Since the ground-breaking MenAfriVac® vaccine, which was introduced in 2010, has protected more than 230 million people in 16 countries, resulting in the control and near elimination of deadly meningitis A disease outbreaks across the meningitis belt.
Over the past five years, 50 countries in Africa have successfully introduced at least one new vaccine into their immunisation programmes, yet many African countries have been slow to make progress on other nationally agreed-upon immunisation targets, and one in five children in the region still does not receive the vaccines they need.
In 2014, nearly eight million infants on the African Continent did not receive the required three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine, a strong indicator that health systems are under equipped and underfunded to deliver other vaccines and health care services.
Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean said; ‘We know that vaccines are one of the most cost-effective solutions in global health and, as a continent, we must do more to accelerate progress and reach more children. Vaccinating children against life-threatening diseases is a great investment in socioeconomic development in Africa and the world as a whole.’
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