From 24-30 April 2017, the WHO African Region will join the rest of the world in celebrating World Immunization Week with the theme “Vaccines protect everyone, get vaccinated!” to promote the critical importance of full immunization throughout each person’s life.
Immunization saves millions of lives and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective public health interventions. Vaccines provide benefits beyond health outcomes. These benefits include averted medical costs and reduced time spent caring for sick children. These savings accrue to improvements in education, economic growth and in accelerated poverty reduction for families, communities and nations.
Leaders at the highest levels have recognized the critical role of vaccinations. Earlier this year the African Union Summit adopted the "Declaration on Universal Access to Immunization as a cornerstone of health and development in Africa.” This AU Declaration paves the way for accelerated implementation of the Addis Declaration on Immunization Roadmap to ensure that everyone in Africa, no matter who they are or where they live, can access the vaccines they need to survive and thrive.
In order to maintain momentum around the high level leadership commitments embodied in the roadmap, Member States will begin the 7th African Vaccination Week (AVW) commemoration on 24 April 2017 and will continue to maintain pressure throughout the year around the critical notion of universal access to immunization. Countries are committed to ensuring that every person - regardless of geography or demographic – receives access to immunization. Additionally, Africa’s First Ladies have committed to including the AVW event among the priority actions of the Organization of First Ladies in Africa (OAFLA) for 2017. This will enact the commitments they took on routine immunization in the Call to Action they launched in January 2016.
In recent decades, immunization coverage has improved dramatically in Africa. Vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis containing vaccine (DTP3) have increased from 52% in 2000 to 76% in 2015. Cases of many vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and meningitis have fallen in many countries, saving millions of lives, although we are still facing some outbreaks in countries with low coverage.
Last year alone an estimated 17 million people in 26 African countries received vaccinations; another 11 million received Vitamin A, and 13 million received deworming tablets.
Additional commitments with regular funding are needed to increase coverage to levels high enough to interrupt transmission of diseases and to introduce new vaccines into country immunization systems. This Africa Vaccination Week provides all of us with a great reminder to seek immunization for ourselves and our families and communities. It is also a time to reinforce to our political and community leaders their role in leading us to a day when no one dies from a vaccine preventable disease.
I strongly encourage all Member States to kick off implementation of the ADI Roadmap to make sure that we are on track to deliver results by 2020. WHO and its immunization partners will continue to provide support to countries to sustain and strengthen the gains made and achieve universal immunization coverage. “Vaccines protect everyone, get vaccinated!”