With one in five African children lacking access to all needed and basic life-saving vaccines, ministers of health and other line ministers countries 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 held from 24-25 February, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia the ministers signed a declaration to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against vaccine-preventable diseases and to close the immunization gap by 2020. The conference, which was 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 life-saving vaccines.
“Our children are our most precious resource, yet one in five fail to receive all the immunizations they need to survive and thrive, leaving millions vulnerable to preventable disease,” H.E. Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health for Ethiopia. “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.”
A new report issued at the conference paints a mixed picture on vaccine access, delivery systems and immunization equity in Africa. Routine immunization coverage has increased considerably across Africa since 2000, measles deaths declined by 86% between 2000 and 2014, and the introduction of new vaccines has been a major success. However, one in five children still do not receive all of the most basic vaccines they need, three critical diseases—measles, rubella and neonatal tetanus—remain endemic, and many countries have fragile health systems that leave immunization programs vulnerable to shocks.
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