February 24-25, 2016, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, high-level delegates from 43 African countries and regional and global immunization advocates came together for the first Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa. The first-of-its-kind event was hugely successful, and signaled fierce determination among African leaders to secure the health and prosperity of their societies through immunization.
The conference was hosted jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) African and Eastern Mediterranean regional offices and the African Union Commission, and provided a powerful platform to discuss progress and continued challenges in immunization coverage. It also set the stage for renewed commitments to improve access to lifesaving vaccines across the continent. In advance of the event, organizers issued an official report addressing the current state of immunization in Africa.
Over two days, participants recognized milestone immunization victories—such as success of the Meningitis Vaccine Project in achieving the near-elimination of meningitis A, and 18 months of a polio-free Africa—and celebrated improvements in immunization coverage and reductions in childhood death and disease. They also recognized the continued need for greater country ownership and partnership across key African stakeholder groups, and highlighted the challenges of vaccine affordability and the need to expand country health financing.
With shared political will and a sense of excitement, the conference ended on a promising note – delegates endorsed the declaration on Universal Access to Immunization as a Cornerstone for Health and Development in Africa. The statement commits leaders to closing the immunization gap by financing immunization, reducing delivery barriers, ensuing polio transition plans are in place and improving health systems. By endorsing the declaration, African leaders made their voices loud and clear—immunization saves lives, strengthens economies, and is essential to achieving a healthy future for all. Civil society organizations, religious leaders and parliamentarians also issued declarations at the end of the conference in support of immunization.
Check out conference coverage highlights at CCTV Africa, All Africa; and AFP.