26 April 2019
By Fara Ndiaye, Deputy Executive Director
Immunisations have long been viewed as the most cost-effective health intervention known to man. Between 1990 and 2017 vaccines contributed to child death rates falling by 58% and around 800,000 lives are saved across Africa every year through vaccinations. The benefits of immunisation are clear to see, and leaders across Africa would be wise to take note of the impact that effective routine immunisation programs have across the region.
Tragically however, whilst the benefits of increased immunisation have been proven time and time again, still vaccine-preventable diseases such as Meningitis, Pneumo, and Yellow Fever claim the lives of more than half a million children younger than 5 years every year in Africa – representing 56% of the global deaths related to vaccine-preventable diseases. We are off track to meet global targets for measles, rubella and maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination, and there has been increasing numbers of outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and various other vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD’s). Between 2017-2018 measles cases alone rose by 27% across Africa.
Ultimately, successful immunisation programmes hold the key to providing a sound foundation for national health systems and more healthy, prosperous communities. Illnesses and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases cost sub-Saharan African $US13 billion dollars each year. By improving access to immunisations, we will move closer to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that every child is given the best start in life.
Therefore, this Africa Immunisation Week (AIW), we are demanding for greater action on immunisation across Africa – every player, no matter how big or small, can play a great role in this effort. Today, only 12 African countries fund more than 50% of their national immunisation programs. In order to sustain and quicken progress, it is crucial that domestic investments continue to grow.
Internationally, incredible work has been done by organisations such as Gavi – who have helped developing countries to vaccinate more than 700 million children around the world since 2000, preventing more than 6 million future deaths in Africa alone. Working with Governments across the continent, Gavi’s efforts highlight the impact that successful partnerships between Government’s and organisations can have. For example, in Niger, with the support of Gavi, they have committed over US$225 million to vaccinations since 2001, helping prevent millions of cases of meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhoea.
At Speak Up Africa, this is why we work with organisations at all levels to ensure that the impact of individual and collective actions are maximised. If we want the world and its people to thrive, action must be driven from those in the highest levels to ensure that everyone benefits from life saving vaccines. We believe that no one should be denied their basic human rights, and so we join partners around the world today to demand that more is done to achieve our ambitions.
This year’s theme of African Vaccination Week, “Protected Together: Vaccines Work!”, calls for this much needed collaborative action. We are always stronger when we work together, but whilst we have made incredible progress, we cannot stop now. If we achieved universal coverage, the impact and benefits would be immense. So, come on – let’s work together!