Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, outgoing African Union Commission Chairperson Tuesday led African Heads of State to commit to advance the goal of universal access to immunisation by 2020 by endorsing the Addis Declaration on Immunization (ADI), a landmark commitment supporting and prioritising immunisation at the continental scale.
Zuma noted that universal access to immunization is achievable. “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,” she said.
According to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance board, by that move, the African leaders have shown outstanding leadership. “By endorsing this landmark commitment which will allow more African children to be reached with life-saving vaccines no matter where they live,” she said.
Despite tremendous gains over the last 15 years, one-in-five of African children still do not have full access to life-saving vaccines. In the past decade continent-wide coverage of children receiving all three doses of a diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis containing vaccine (DTP-3) – the main indicator of immunisation program performance – has seen little progress.
Okonjo-Iwela said Africa must now ensure that the commitments translate into sustainable financing for immunisation.
“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.”
The announcement has also been welcomed by UNICEF. “We would like to congratulate the Heads of State on making this very important commitment. All children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are have the right to survive and thrive. By endorsing the Addis Declaration on Immunisation, African Leaders have set the stage to ensure that all children on the African continent receive the vaccines they need“ said Dr Robin Nandy, UNICEF Chief of Immunisation.
“African leaders are making a sound economic investment in future generations by committing to expand Africa’s access to life-saving vaccines,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “High vaccine coverage builds equitable health systems and is also vital for long term health security across the continent. Ensuring universal access to immunisation is critical to improve health, save lives and help build strong communities.”
Since 2000, more than 4.5 million deaths have been averted in the 40 Gavi-supported African countries, thanks to immunisation which is one of public health’s most cost-effective investments. Gavi support has also contributed to the immunisation of more than 240 million children in Africa. For every dollar spent on childhood vaccinations US$44 are gained in economic benefits as vaccines boost development both through direct medical savings and indirect economic benefits.
The Addis Declaration on Immunization (ADI) calls for countries to make universal access to immunisation a cornerstone of health and development efforts, increase vaccine-related funding, strengthen vaccine supply chains and delivery systems.