The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made a business case for how it plans to support immunisation in Africa.
The UN health agency on Wednesday launched the “Business Case for WHO Immunisation Activities on the African Continent 2018-2030” in Geneva outlining how it will assist African countries achieve universal vaccination coverage.
“We know the benefits of immunisation are far-reaching. When children survive and stay healthy, entire families, communities and countries thrive. In short, immunisation is a cornerstone of sustainable development,” said Samba Ousmane Sow, Minister of Health and Public Hygiene for Mali.
“We must ramp up our efforts immediately to ensure universal access to immunisation for all children in Africa, no matter who they are or where they live.”
According to WHO, more than 30 million children in Africa under the age of five fall sick due to vaccine-preventable diseases and of these, over half a million die.
The global health agency says curbing the four major ailments – measles, rubella, rotavirus and pneumococcal diseases – could save more than 1.9 million lives and generate $58 billion in economic benefits.
The return on investment is estimated to be $37 for every dollar invested, with returns rising to $93 per dollar for measles elimination.
“While Africa has made tremendous progress in improving access to immunisation, most countries are off-track to achieve the Global Vaccine Action Plan target of 90 per cent national immunisation coverage by 2020,” WHO said.
To scale up progress against vaccine-preventable diseases, the business case shifts focus from disease-specific to an integrated, multi-sectoral life-course approach from infancy through to old age.
To implement it, WHO has differentiated all African countries into four categories based on an immunisation maturity grid – category 1 (low maturity) to category 4 (high maturity). The key components used to differentiate include vaccine financing, immunisation service delivery and data analytics.
WHO will provide targeted support to each group of countries to optimise resource management and increase impact. Over time, the agency will decrease support and focus in countries as they move up the maturity scale, to allow country ownership and sustainability.
21 African countries are classified under categories 1 and 2 for having weak immunisation systems.
WHO says one of the biggest challenge is funding. For instance, as Africa nears polio elimination, critical funding for immunisation through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is expected to ramp down and end.
In addition, as more countries move to middle-income status, they transition away from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance that funds immunisation activities in poor countries.
“The WHO business case is strongly anchored in a broader vision to improve accountability and transparency in line with the broader WHO Transformation Agenda,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“We are committed to continue evolving to ensure that everyone in Africa, no matter who they are or where they live, can have access to life-saving vaccines, because universal access to immunisation is not only a moral imperative – it also makes economic sense.”
– Additional reporting by Christabel Ligami.