By Sharon Atieno

Africa’s Heads of State have been urged to reaffirm their support for the Addis Declaration on Immunization and the Immunization Agenda 2030. Also, they were called upon to make immunization and the fight against outbreaks a priority.

These remarks were made by Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal and current Chair of the African Union (AU) during the Forum on Immunization and Polio Eradication in Senegal.

Adopted in 2017, the Addis Declaration on Immunization is a historic pledge by African Heads of State to ensure that everyone in Africa – regardless of who they are or where they live – receives the full benefits of immunization.

The Declaration also includes increasing and sustaining domestic investments and funding allocations to meet the cost of traditional vaccines, fulfill new vaccine financing requirements, and provide financial support for the operational implementation of immunization activities as well as addressing persistent barriers in vaccine and healthcare delivery systems, especially in the poorest, vulnerable and most marginalized communities.

“ At the continental level, the 2017 Addis Declaration on Immunization calls for African Union member states to mobilize to ensure access to vaccines for all. This is all the more necessary as health threats, old and new, continue to be rampant, with increasing risks for large-scale contaminations,” he said.

On the other hand, the Immunization Agenda 2030, unanimously adopted by all member states at the World Health Assembly in 2020, provides a strategic framework for addressing key immunization issues in the context of primary health care and universal health coverage during 2021-2030.

“It must be said loud and clear that immunization is a safe intervention. From their conception to the first injection, vaccines follow a rigorous and standardized scientific protocol that leaves no room for chance,” President Sall said.

“Immunization saves lives, especially those of women and children, who are in many ways vulnerable groups in society. Immunization is effective. It prevents human suffering and disabilities, and it helps to build strong immune systems in children.”

With COVID-19 disrupting routine childhood immunization, Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, said the renewed commitment to the Addis Declaration can eradicate all remaining forms of polio, and get back on track all childhood vaccinations.

“The recent pledges of US$ 2.6 billion toward the Global Polio Eradication Initiative take us a big step closer, but there is still another US$ 2.2 billion left to raise,” he noted.

“Health is a right, and until everyone in Africa enjoys access to primary healthcare, including vaccination services, no one is safe.”

In a statement, over 150 civil society organizations (CSOs) and networks who joined the Forum reiterated the call to remobilize actions toward the Declaration.

“To improve our people’s health, build strong and resilient health systems and advance toward the goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), we must ensure that everyone everywhere has access to immunization,” the CSOs said.

“Given the severe drop in immunization rates, and the series of challenges facing the continent – from climate change and hunger to worsening insecurity and soaring inflation – now is the time to come together to focus attention and action on fighting disease outbreaks to protect the lives of our people.”

They also affirmed their willingness and commitment to ensuring accountability and assessing fidelity to the Declaration’s commitments while continuing to champion its goals alongside partners and governments.