ADDIS Ababa, Ethiopia, 23 February 2016,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- In 2012, all African nations made a promise to support children’s health by setting a goal of Universal Access to Immunization by 2020. Ahead of the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa this week in Addis Ababa, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on our common aspiration to achieve our goals.
Thanks to immunizations, there has been a 55% reduction in child deaths in the past 25 years.
The pneumococcal vaccine and the rotavirus vaccine offer us prevention tools for two of Africa’s biggest killers of children: pneumonia and diarrhea.
Vaccines are a cost-effective proven investment that spurs national development. Studies show that every dollar spent on immunization programs can provide economic returns up to sixteen times for a given country.
Treating vaccine-preventable diseases places an enormous strain on public health systems by redirecting limited human and economic resources towards treatment instead of prevention. This does not even begin to account for the indirect loss of economic productivity output for adults seeking treatment for themselves or their children.
Some African nations have made incredible progress towards this universal access to immunization. Rwanda has achieved close to 100% immunization rates; Tanzania has achieved close to 98% coverage. My own country, Senegal, has made good progress, with vaccine coverage rates hovering around 89%.
These successes are only possible with strong country ownership and political will. In order to reach our health targets across the continent, we must commit to the most cost-effective child health intervention: immunization.
In September 2015, during the 11th meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, alongside the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations, I committed to support the Africa United campaign, a communications platform that catalyzes political and sports leadership to take action on the critical health issues the continent faces.
Africa United promotes health systems strengthening and recently launched « Every Shot Counts », a campaign which highlights universal access to immunization as an effective and efficient way to reduce child mortality in Africa.
As we move towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is essential for us to prioritize health for every child, even in the most remote village. The Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa, the first ever conference of its kind, represents a key moment for us to catalyze support and hold ourselves accountable to ensure we make universal immunization a reality.