Dakar — To address declining immunization rates and the resurgence of polio, President Macky Sall – speaking during the Forum for Polio Vaccination and Eradication in Africa held this weekend in Dakar – called on heads of state and other stakeholders to urgently re-mobilize around the Addis Declaration.
Sall also encouraged them to reaffirm their commitment to systematic immunization towards the eradication of polio, the fight against the resurgence of other vaccine-preventable diseases given the downward trend in basic vaccination coverage throughout the continent, and the establishment of vaccine manufacturing programs on the continent so that no child is left behind.
Adopted in 2017, the initiators of the Dakar Forum recall, the Addis Declaration on Immunization is a historic commitment by African Heads of State to ensure that everyone in Africa, regardless of their identity and place of residence, fully benefit from the benefits of vaccination.
It is in this vein that the 2030 Agenda for Immunization was launched, unanimously adopted by all Member States at the World Health Assembly in 2020, to provide a strategic framework for addressing key issues of immunization in the context of primary health care and universal health coverage in the period 2021-2030.
In his capacity as current chairperson of the African Union (AU), Macky Sall takes the reins the fight against declining vaccination rates and for the eradication of polio in Africa. He points out that 20 years after the international conference on vaccination and religion, this Dakar forum shows that vaccination remains a priority.
“We must stop the trial of intent against the vaccine and vaccination. It must be said loud and clear that vaccination is a safe medical procedure that saves lives, especially women and children who constitute the most vulnerable social strata,” Sall said.
Sall called on the African countries involved in eradication to remain mobilized given the downward trend in basic vaccination coverage throughout the continent.
In the same vein, his counterpart from Guinea Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, pointed out that since the adoption in 1998 of the resolution for the eradication of polio, progress has certainly been made: “We still face difficulties logistics for the delivery of vaccines to the most remote areas.”
He expressed the need for a global coalition towards the eradication of polio and childhood diseases. According to Embaló, the pressure of new outbreaks of polio including outbreaks where the disease has been eradicated requires vigilance. It calls for strengthening cross-border cooperation for disease surveillance and vaccinating “zero dose” children by pooling forces and resources.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame also renewed his country’s commitment to the eradication of polio. In his view, recent donations of U.S.$2.6 billion for polio eradication have made progress. Kagame lauded the initiative of the African Union to the produce vaccines which has now made it possible to produce plants Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa.
“We have the resources and the know-how. So let’s work together to eradicate polio permanently,” he said.
The representative of Gambian President Ahmeth Lamine Samaké focused on the difficulties which remain and which slow down progress. According to Samaké, faced with this state of affairs, there is a need for improving access and building more health posts, hence the importance of community participation and the need for stronger political will.
Dr. Chris Elias, Chairman of the Polio Oversight Council and Chairman of the Global Development Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, calls on actors to resume Covid-19 advance efforts to eradicate polio and renew commitments.
“We have the powerful tools and the momentum to achieve one of the greatest public health achievements in history: the eradication of polio,” he said. Leaders in Africa and around the world are coming together to ensure that no child is paralyzed by polio again. Now is the time to renew commitments, strengthen immunization and outbreak response, and deliver a polio-free future for our children. »
It calls for the strengthening of service delivery systems. Before notifying that partnership is the means to achieve the objectives with the assistance of the States.
This fits with the appeal of Miss Fatoumata Mané, Mayor of the Municipal Children’s Council of Medina Yoro Foula (Senegal) who recalled the rights of children to protection, health, education, to have a favorable environment. The young girl calls on political authorities, health workers, friends of Africa to have African children vaccinated to save thousands of lives.
Remobilizing to repair the damage caused by Covid-19
Specialists who took part in the Dakar meeting demonstrated that despite the considerable progress made by African countries over the past decades to give children a better start in life through vaccination, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an alarming drop in the number of children receiving life-saving vaccines.
According to them, all countries in the world have experienced disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and 25 million children worldwide were not vaccinated in 2021.
Two years after the World Health Organization’s African Region was declared wild polio-free, the same source continues, outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus continue to spread in under-immunized communities.
Before clarifying that the four-month suspension of polio vaccination campaigns in at least 16 African countries in 2020, due to Covid-19, has led to tens of millions of children not receiving vaccines against polio and contributed to the spread of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreaks in many African countries.
Financial partners reiterate their commitments
The Dakar summit seems to light the flame to stimulate a new dynamic with sizeable financial commitments. Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Africa CDC Acting Director, emphasized that “the pandemic has caused a dramatic drop in routine immunization rates across Africa, but Africa CDC has the expertise and commitment to reverse this trend”.
Before launching: “We are recommitting to the Addis Declaration on Immunization to increase access to vaccines, improve surveillance and response to epidemics and invest in the production of vaccines in Africa. This is how we will protect our children from vaccine-preventable diseases and this is key to the new public health order we are working on.
The same commitment is noted among leaders of the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) who have stressed the importance for Africa to develop its own vaccine industry.”
“We are committed to ending transmission of all types of poliovirus globally and working with countries to scale up routine immunization to bring life-saving vaccines to children,” said Seth Berkley, Executive Director of Gavi.
Gavi has worked with countries in Africa for more than 20 years to provide access to vaccines and strengthen health and immunization systems, said Berkley.
Along with our continued focus on routine immunization, helping to fight epidemics and tackling the problem of so-called zero-dose children, who do not receive any doses of vaccines, he, “Gavi strongly supports the AU vision 2040 to scale up vaccine production in Africa.”
According to Berkley, “A thriving African vaccine production ecosystem represents a huge opportunity to improve health security and vaccine self-sufficiency for the continent.”