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Vaccine-preventable disease could kill 900,000 people

WHO wants African governments to invest more in surveillance systems

| THE INDEPENDENT | African governments need to invest in strong disease surveillance systems that will ensure early detection and response to risks and outbreaks of Vaccine-preventable disease (VPD) and avoid unnecessary deaths.

Vaccine-preventable disease (VPD) surveillance is a critical component of the integrated disease control strategies and an effective way to detect and respond early to outbreaks – mitigating their impact on national security, the local economy and public health systems.

“Strong surveillance is the backbone of a functioning health information system,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti; the WHO Regional Director for Africa, announced this to over 300 health leaders from across the globe meeting in Abu Dhabi on Nov.19 for the high-level “Reaching the Last Mile Forum”.

She said strong disease surveillance systems empower health workers with timely, quality evidence to inform decision-making yet man African countries face major challenges in both the strategic planning and operation of their surveillance systems.

“To curb the spread of life-threatening diseases, governments must invest in strong and functioning surveillance systems,” she said.

She was making a pitch for the newly launched Investment Case for Vaccine-Preventable Disease Surveillance in the African Region, 2020-2030, which also warns of drastic consequences in store for the region, if countries do not invest in disease surveillance efforts.

“VPD surveillance is not only a valuable investment that will help countries reach immunisation targets,” said Dr. Moeti, “it is a critical component of broader goals such as Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals, and is absolutely essential to protecting all of our health security.”

In January Uganda completed the first ever cost-of-illness study to estimate the economic burden of pneumonia, diarrhea and measles from the household and societal perspectives. Pneumonia, diarrhea, and measles are just three out of about 23 Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPD) affecting children and adults in Uganda.

Pneumonia, diarrhea, and measles affect mainly children and the study revealed significant household costs associated with them. Conducted under the Decade of Vaccine Economics (DOVE IV) study, the findings made policy makers take notice.

“Too many children are debilitated or die from these serious diseases, yet they are preventable by vaccines,” said Dr. Charles Olaro, Director Clinical and Community Services at the Ministry of Health, during dissemination of findings.

The research showed that handling a case of pneumonia, diarrhea, or measles can cost Shs65,000 (about US$20) on average to treat one patient admitted in a private for-profit facility and Shs12,000 (US$4) in a private not-for-profit facility. These estimates include direct medical costs, out-of-pocket expenses, and indirect costs such as productivity losses, based on observed practice. Hospital care costs made up the biggest proportion of the total costs.

At the African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa in January 2017, African Heads of State endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization (ADI), pledging to ensure that everyone in Africa – regardless of who they are or where they live – receives the full benefits of immunisation. They pledged to increase political and financial investments in their immunisation programmes.

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