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Regional immunisation meeting discusses investment in surveillance

FILE PHOTO: Immunisation

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Global immunization experts attending the biannual Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) meeting in Congo Brazzaville on Jan.23 noted that over the past five years, immunization coverage in sub-Saharan Africa has stagnated at 72%, exposing populations to vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks. They said there was need for governments to invest more in disease surveillance and engage communities to drive vaccine deployment during outbreaks.

RITAG Chair, Professor Helen Rees said, “We have mapped out what can and must be done to secure the future of millions of children on this continent.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 31 million children younger than 5 years suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases every year. More than a half million of them die due to lack of access to the vaccines they needed.

In 2017, Heads of State from across Africa endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization, a historic pledge that envisions an Africa in which every child, no matter their economic circumstances, has access to vaccines. A progress report on the implementation status of the 10  commitments outlined in the Addis Declaration will be released later this year. It will take stock of progress made over the past two years, highlight gaps and issue recommendations to guide progress towards stronger immunization systems.

Even without the report, WHO data already shows illness and deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases cost sub-Saharan Africa US$13 billion each year, this might reduce with some of the diseases being at the brink of being eradicated. For instance, the last case of wild poliovirus in Africa was reported in August 2016 in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria. If no new cases of wild poliovirus are detected by August 2019, Africa will attain the wild poliovirus eradication goal.

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