Africa Commits Catch-Up Vaccinations for Children

Yellow fever, measles, polio under vaccinated African children
children vaccinations
WHO Africa Feb. 2023
Addis Ababa (Vax Before Travel)

African heads of state recently agreed on key measures to revamp routine immunization across the continent following massive disruptions by the pandemic that stymied childhood vaccination programs.

These vaccination disruptions heightened outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Currently, vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks are ongoing in 31 African countries, with 17 having more than one vaccine-preventable disease outbreak.

For example, the median vaccination coverage for measles was 69% across the African continent in 2021.

And outbreaks of yellow fever, cholera, and polio are common.

A total of 8.4 million children in the African region were left out of immunization services in 2021, according to estimates by UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO).

At a high-level event on the sidelines of the 36th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, the leaders endorsed a declaration on “Building momentum for routine immunization recovery in Africa."

This effort aims to “revitalize the momentum for all populations to have universal access to immunization to reduce mortality, morbidity, and disability, and consequently help Member States to achieve their goals.”

“Progress in meeting immunization targets, we believe, is a driver for equitable health outcomes for children, mothers, and the population as a whole,” said H.E. Dr. Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, in a press release on February 19, 2023. 

“We believe as a government that the returns on investment for immunization are very high for our progress towards meeting the SDGs.”

In Africa, vaccine-preventable diseases are responsible for 93% of ongoing infectious disease outbreaks.

The “Building momentum for routine immunization recovery in Africa” declaration also aims to reignite the continent’s commitment to meet the goals of the Immunization Agenda 2030, a new global strategy to address the challenges of immunization and save more than 50 million lives worldwide.

The declaration called on African regional economic communities, health organizations, and the African Development Bank to support the initiative.

It also urged vaccine manufacturers to improve access to doses and the UNICEF and WHO to support countries to monitor progress towards the immunization goals.

As of February 27, 2023, the U.S. CDC has issued various travel alerts regarding disease outbreaks in Africa.