Root Causes of Low Coverage and Under-immunisation in sub-Saharan Africa

28 March 2019, 10:44

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The Uganda National Academy of Sciences (UNAS) hosted the second collaborative Symposium on Root Causes of Low Coverage and Under-immunisation in sub-Saharan Africa on 27-28 February 2019 at Hotel Africana in Kampala, Uganda. The Symposium was part of a series of information gathering processes towards an in-depth consensus study which is led by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and UNAS.

The objectives of the UNAS Symposium were:
• To solicit expert views on innovations that have led to successes in vaccine delivery in different countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
• To identify and discuss the different social, economic, and political factors contributing to low coverage and under-immunisation in sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on countries with huge numbers of un-immunised children.
• To critically share and analyse proposed interventions and drivers of change.

Dr Alfred Driwale, who is the Program Manager for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) at the Ministry of Health in Uganda, delivered the first keynote address. He spoke about how Uganda is prioritizing immunisation and making efforts in owning the national immunisation system. He highlighted that this has included creating an enabling policy environment through the country’s Immunisation Act and political support for immunisation with the President as a champion.

Honourable Huda Oleru, an expert member of the Decade of Vaccines (2011-2020) Working Group, highlighted the performance of Africa with regards to the Global Vaccine Action plan and made recommendations based on lessons learned. The last keynote address was about the role of civil society organisations in immunisation systems and it was delivered by the PATH Country Director in Uganda, Dr Emmanuel Mugisha.

There were also presentations that focussed on the drivers of success in vaccine delivery which highlighted lessons learned under different political and economic changes/challenges and in conflict zones. Both Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso highlighted their achievements and lessons learned under such conditions.

Prof Oyewale Tomori from Biovaccines discussed the proposed development of a national vaccine industry in Nigeria. A representative from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Dr Nekoye Otsyula, highlighted GSK’s achievements and collaborations in the East Africa region. She also discussed GSK’s plans in relation to the Gavi transitioning process.

The concluding session was on how the key stakeholders in immunisation – i.e. policymakers, healthcare workers and communities – can work together to create solutions. In terms of healthcare workers Dr Ombeva Malande, Director of East Africa Center for Vaccines and Immunisation, gave a presentation on how his organisation and collaborators have been providing capacity development initiatives that have been shown to improve immunisation coverage. Dr Alima Essop, Director of Agence Medicine Preventive in Cote d’Ivoire, discussed results of a multi-country study on immunisation hesitant communities.

The Symposium was attended by 42 participants representing different countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region.

The Symposium was followed by the second consensus study committee meeting where the committee, co-chaired by Prof Harriet Mayanja-Kizza (Uganda) and by Prof Shabir Madhi (SA), extensively discussed and revised the draft study report. Committee members represent these eight countries: SA, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, eSwatini and Cameroon.

Both the Symposium and the committee meeting were sponsored by the South African Department of Science and Technology.