Sub-Saharan Africa still suffers vaccine stockouts

Thursday April 13 2017



A child gets vaccinated. PHOTO | FILE | AFP

A child gets vaccinated. PHOTO | FILE | AFP 

By IVAN R. MUGISHA

Why are vaccines often out of stock all over the world, but mostly in sub-Saharan Africa? Blame outdated delivery systems and challenges in vaccine supply chains, says a new report.
One in every three countries experiences stockouts of one vaccine for at least one month, says the report released by PATH, an organisation dealing in children and women’s health issues.

“This means that fewer children are immunised against killer diseases. Outdated vaccine distribution systems are delaying and limiting the impact that vaccines should have on safeguarding people’s health,” the research says.

It further shows that 19 per cent to 38 per cent of vaccines worldwide are accidentally exposed to freezing temperatures, potentially compromising the potency of those vaccines.”

This challenge is most pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa, where 38 per cent of the 47 countries are affected by delayed vaccine distribution, according to Patrick Lyndon, a researcher with the World Health Organisation said.

“In Africa, one in five children does not receive lifesaving immunisations — while the continent’s general routine immunisation coverage of 80 per cent is the lowest of any region in the world,” he said.

In the East African Community, routine immunisation coverage is above 90 per cent, with Rwanda leading the pack at 93 per cent. However, Kenya struggles with immunising newborns against tetanus, coming in at 73 per cent against its neighbours’ 85 per cent and above in 2012.

Hassan Sibomana, acting director of the Immunisation Department at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, told The EastAfrican that Rwanda has invested in cold rooms and refrigerators. “Transportation of vaccines to any health centre across the country is now possible,” he said.

According to WHO, less than a tenth of African governments fund more than 50 per cent of their national immunisation expenditures, and many of them are in sub-Saharan Africa.