African leaders, including ministers of health, finance, and other line ministries, will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 24-25 February 2016, for the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa – the first-ever ministerial-level convening with a singular focus on ensuring that people across the continent can get access to life-saving vaccines.
Hosted by the World Health Organization Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) in conjunction with the African Union Commission – the conference will provide a powerful platform for African policymakers and advocates to celebrate progress toward expanding immunization coverage; discuss strategies for tackling the biggest challenges facing vaccine efforts; foster country ownership for sustainable financing for immunization; and advocate for greater engagement with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable demand for immunization.
“The Ministerial Conference is a unique opportunity to secure buy-in at the highest levels for prioritizing immunization across the continent,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “With strong commitment from everyone, we can make universal access to immunization a reality.”
In collaboration with the Ministerial conference, WHO and PATH are hosting an event celebrating 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 immunization partners.
Since the ground-breaking MenAfriVac® vaccine was introduced in 2010, more than 230 million people in 16 countries have been protected, resulting in the control and near elimination of deadly meningitis 50 countries in Africa have successfully introduced at least one new vaccine into their immunization programs, yet many African countries have been slow to make progress on other nationally agreed-upon immunization targets, and one in five children in the Region still does not receive the vaccines they need.
In 2014, nearly 8 million infants (21%) in the African Continent did not receive the required three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine, a strong indicator that health systems are underequipped and underfunded to deliver other vaccines and health care services.
“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,” said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “Vaccinating children against life-threatening diseases is a great investment in socioeconomic development in Africa and the world.
The Ministerial Conference is expected to convene more than 500 political leaders, technical experts and advocates from across Africa and globally. Conference sessions will cover a range of topics, including sustainable financing for immunization, 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.