CELEBRATES 50TH EXPANDED PROGRAM ON IMMUNIZATION EPI

By Vincess Okushi

World Health Organization has charged regional governments to rebuild their commitment to strengthen immunization programs to accelerate progress toward achieving universal access to vaccines.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti made the call in a message to commemorate Africa Vaccination Week and World Vaccination Week on 25th April 2024.

Expressing her deepest gratitude to all Member States, health workers, and communities for their unwavering commitment to advancing the health and well-being of the people in the region towards vaccination services.

Said there is a need for Member States to remember the ten commitments made in the Addis Ababa Declaration on Immunization, endorsed by their Heads of State in 2017.

Moeti while admonishing the shared commitment by African governments, called for its accomplishment especially as they are heading towards the end of the 2030 agenda.

As we move towards 2030, much remains to be accomplished to reach the regional and global goals aligned with the IA2030 objectives. 

Let us continue working together across sectors and borders and forge a path towards a healthier continent where all children and adults are assured of receiving life-saving vaccines.

Every last week of April, we commemorate Africa Vaccination Week and World Vaccination Week

to increase awareness of the importance of every person’s need and right to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. We keep vaccination high on national and regional agendas for healthy communities. This year, 2024, the week embraces another milestone: the 50th anniversary of immunization.

For half a century, immunization has been at the forefront of our regional health efforts, saving millions of lives and transforming the landscape of public health towards “Safeguarding Our Future.”

With the launch of the Expanded Programme on Immunization,  in 1974 by WHO, the programme grew and widened, moving from the initially targeted six diseases (diphtheria, measles, polio, tetanus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough) to 14 vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Additionally, the region has seen a dramatic decline in deaths caused by meningitis by up to 39% from 2000 to 2019. This is a significant achievement in public health owing, in part, to the introduction and rollout of the meningitis A vaccine in 2010. No cases of meningitis caused by the type A strain has been found since 2017.

Progress towards eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus in our region has also been commendable. As of March 2024, 43 out of 47 high-burden African countries had been validated for elimination, representing 91% of our Member States in the African Region. 

Over the years, we have witnessed a steady increase in immunization coverage rates, which have been possible thanks to strong collaboration with Member States, international organizations, health workers and communities. At WHO, we have worked collaboratively with partners to launch special initiatives to strengthen immunization efforts. 

We must continue to support and encourage countries to improve vaccination coverage further and halt the transmission of variant poliovirus types 1 and 2. By the end of 2023, the region reduced the number of circulating variants of poliovirus cases from 438 to 304 (31% decrease) within one year.

We can strive to stop polio transmission in the coming year with collective determination and collaboration. 

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