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African finance, health ministers meet on access to vaccines

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WHO spokesman, Gregory Hartl

WHO spokesman, Gregory Hartl

AS part of efforts to prevent childhood killer diseases and drive forward immunisation across Africa, ensuring every child has access to the vaccines they need, African leaders—including health and finance ministers—will for the first time ever come together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today for a two-day ministerial conference on immunisation tagged “Toward Universal Immunisation Coverage as a Cornerstone for Health and Development in Africa”.

The event is a powerful platform for African governments to demonstrate their commitment to expanding access to vaccines across the continent.

According to a press statement released yesterday by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the economic benefits of vaccination are clear, yet less than 20 countries in Africa currently fund more than 50 per cent of their own immunisation expenditure.

The WHO noted that the generosity of outside donors, particularly over the past decade, has enabled African countries to strengthen immunisation programmes and introduce new vaccines.

The health agency said while donor support will remain important as African countries continue to grow economically, the continent’s shared goal should be for all governments to fully finance their national immunisation programmes.

The event will also bring together advocates, technical experts, policy-makers, donors and journalists to examine how best to drive forward immunisation across Africa, ensuring every child has access to the vaccines they need.

The conference will be hosted by WHO’s Regional Offices for Africa and for the Eastern Mediterranean in conjunction with the African Union, reflecting the breadth of desire across the continent to drive improvements in access to immunisation.

WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said: “Africa has an incredible opportunity to provide a better life for each and every child – and we know exactly how to seize it: provide universal access to immunisation across the continent to protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

“We have seen the transformative impact of efforts to reach more children with life-saving vaccines. Child deaths in Africa fell by half over the past generation.”

Moeti said polio, a disease that once paralysed children in every country, has not been seen anywhere on the continent in more than a year. She said because of a new meningitis vaccine, hundreds of millions of people no longer live in fear of the life-threatening infection, which wreaked havoc across Africa’s so-called ‘meningitis belt.’

Meanwhile, WHO and the African Union are set to launch a mosquito eradication initiative as part of efforts to check the spread of Zika and other related ailments.

Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries.

Moeti had told journalists ahead of the first ever ministers’ conference on immunisation in Africa that the continent learnt some lessons from the recent Ebola outbreak and working to strengthen public health systems and institutions on the continent.


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