Tanzania’s former president Jakaya Kikwete explained why it matters for Tanzania and other African countries to invest heavily in ensuring that every African child is vaccinated against preventable diseases. Briefing journalists on the sidelines of a Ministerial Conference on Immunization (MCIA) in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, Mr Kikwete used the platform as Global Ambassador for Immunization to address some of the gaps that existed in financing for vaccines in Africa.
Mr Kikwete warned, however, that incumbent African leaders should not feel complacent after the little successes that have been attained in some of their countries including Tanzania where remarkable progress in immunization is palpable. Earlier, as he read his keynote address to African health ministers and vaccines stakeholders, he called for soul-searching among the leaders, citing reports which painted a bleak future in the vaccines funding plans.
He said, “Action Plan Reports on the implementation of the universal access to immunization by 2020 agenda, as envisaged by the Global Vaccine Action Plan, is largely off track,” as he posed pertinent questions.
“For us [as leaders and our people], investing our incomes on vaccines is an issue of opportunity cost,” he noted and added, “We are already informed that when a country invests one dollar in vaccines, it saves 16 dollars in return. The money that a country gains in return from this investment can be directed to other pressing issues. But also, when children grow into healthy adults, they become more productive,” he said.
He urged sitting African Heads of State to exercise strong political will and take full ownership of the immunization programs, saying that it was the surest way they could help save the lives of children lost due to preventable diseases.
Mr Kikwete will continue serving as the immunization’s global ambassador for another two years. This is after he was requested by the Gavi Deputy CEO Anuradha Gupta to take over the role.