African Health Ministers will be meeting at the end of this month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the first ever African ministerial conference on immunization. The conference is expected to see an assembly of other Ministers from the Ministry of Finance, Education, Gender and Youth affairs for a collaborative discuss.
According to Dr Richard Mihigo, the Programme Manager, Immunization Vaccination Development Programme WHO Africa, who told a media teleconference ahead of the meeting last week said, “When it was established, the EPI first targeted to immunize children against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping-cough, tuberculosis, poliomyelitis and measles as a means to achieve the global target of health for all by the year 2000,”
“Today most countries in the region now have 10 to 13 antigens within the EPI vaccines.” He also noted that Africa had made strides to improve immunization and that child mortality had declined.
According to WHO, sub Saharan Africa’s annual rate of under-five mortality reduction increased from 1.6% in 1990s to 4.1% in 2000–2015. Consequently, the lives of 48 million children under age 5 have been saved since 2000.
Another report, Levels and trends in child mortality 2015, states that Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Liberia and Niger all met their Millennium Development Goal to reduce child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.
Immunization is one of the cost-effective interventions to prevent some of the life threatening diseases to children. However, according to Mihigo, one in five children in the region have not received the vaccines they need.
In 2000, GAVI, a global vaccine alliance, was formed to increase access to new vaccines in developing countries. This saw the introduction of several new, but more expensive vaccines like Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Pneumococcal and H. Influenza vaccines.
Mihigo said that several countries have rapidly introduced the new vaccines to their populations in the last ten years, increasing vaccine costs dramatically.
“Immunization costs increased from less than a dollar per child for the six basic Expanded Programme on Immunization vaccines 40 years ago to 4.8$ to 6$ per child in the region today,” he said.
He also noted that only 15 countries are funding 50% of expenditure of their national Immunization programmes.