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African leaders commit to advance immunization

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Heads of state across Africa have endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization to ensure that Africans receive full benefits of immunization.

The endorsement was issued during the 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, according to a press release copied to ghanabusinessnews.com.

While Africa has made impressive gains over the last 15 years towards increasing access to immunization, progress has stagnated, and the continent is falling behind on meeting global immunization targets, it said.

One in five children in Africa, the release says still do 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. 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,” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the outgoing AU Commission Chairperson was quoted as saying in the release.

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 release further said.

“Vaccines are among the most effective public health tools available. When children are given a healthy start, communities thrive and economies grow stronger. This support from the Heads of States 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,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa said.

The release pointed out that fewer than 15 African countries fund more than 50 per cent of their national immunization programmes,

As Africa nears polio eradication, critical funding for immunization through the polio eradication programme is expected to ramp down, it noted.

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, it added.

By Pamela Ofori-Boateng

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