Dar es Salaam, 12 December 2012 -- Strengthening Africa’s immunization systems, curbing the increase in the number of wild polio virus cases in Nigeria and closing the funding gap for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) topped the list of recommendations made by the fourth Annual Regional Conference on Immunization in Africa (ARCI) which ended on Wednesday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Other recommendations related to lowering the cost of delivery of vaccines and strengthening human resource capacity in Africa.
In relation to immunization systems strengthening, the conference recommended that all countries should make strengthening immunization systems an integral part of the broader efforts to strengthen their health systems. Countries should also be accountable for the implementation of the strategic priorities of the Global Vaccine Action Plan, and for tracking progress towards the attainment of targets set. Member States and partners were also requested to ensure that civil society organizations were engaged more visibly in immunization programme support at national level.
On polio, the conference called on the government of Nigeria to continue to maintain a high level commitment and leadership of the polio programme with a view to accelerating the interruption of wild polio virus circulation in the country.
It also called on WHO and all partners in the GPEI to continue their support to polio eradication activities and an increase in the health work force engaged in polio eradication efforts. The conference urged countries to maintain the political commitment and high level oversight of polio eradication efforts, improve the quality of polio programme operations, scale up the implementation of innovative strategies and ensure that studies were conducted to better inform the programme operations.
The conference proposed that vaccine developers consider lowering the cost of delivery of vaccines and that WHO and partners assist countries to use available technologies in mapping and tracking to support the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of immunization and vaccine preventable disease control programmes.
Other recommendations were that countries should include dengue fever in their surveillance programmes while WHO and partners should support countries initiate surveillance for viral hepatitis and in documenting the epidemiology of rubella.
Closing the conference, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, described immunization as one of the most powerful and cost-effective public health interventions and said that countries should do more to increase the uptake of new vaccines.
He stated that the levelling off, and, in some cases, the decline of routine immunization coverage in many countries in the region called for vigorous action to reverse the dangerous trend.
Dr Sambo also spoke of the significant reduction in the number of wild polio virus cases and the geographic spread of polio transmission in the African Region in 2012. He, however, added that “the situation in Nigeria, the only polio endemic country in the region is alarming and calls for renewed efforts and increased commitment particularly at operational level.”
He told the delegates that the ARCI forum remained one of the most events convening a large body of public health experts and partners for public health in Africa and underlined the need to strengthen the Task Force on Immunization in its role of providing policy guidance to WHO with regard to vaccines and immunization.
Dr Sambo concluded by pledging the commitment of WHO to engage actively with the different partners and stakeholders in order to generate knowledge, provide guidance and share best practices to help further strengthen the performance of national immunization programmes.
The conference was attended by more than 250 participants representing different countries and over 20 organizations including United Nations agencies, bilateral and multilateral development institutions, Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations and private sector organizations working to improve the health situation, particularly immunization coverage in Africa.
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