Advocating for efforts to protect African children, families, and communities from the threat of infectious diseases: report of the First International African Vaccinology Conference
AbstractOne means of improving healthcare workers' knowledge of and attitudes to vaccines is through running vaccine conferences which are accessible, affordable, and relevant to their everyday work. Various vaccinology conferences are held each year worldwide. These meetings focus heavily on basic science with much discussion about new developments in vaccines, and relatively little coverage of policy, advocacy, and communication issues. A negligible proportion of delegates at these conferences come from Africa, home to almost 40% of the global burden of vaccinepreventable diseases. To the best of our knowledge, no major vaccinology conference has ever been held on the African continent apart from World Health Organization (WHO) meetings. The content of the first International African Vaccinology Conference was planned to be different; to focus on the science, with a major part of discussions being on clinical, programmatic, policy, and advocacy issues. The conference was held in Cape Town, South Africa, from 8 to 11 November 2012. The theme of the conference was “Advocating for efforts to protect African children, families, and communities from the threat of infectious diseases”. There were more than 550 registered participants from 55 countries (including 37 African countries). There were nine pre-conference workshops, ten plenary sessions, and 150 oral and poster presentations. The conference discussed the challenges to universal immunisation in Africa as well as the promotion of dialogue and communication on immunisation among all stakeholders. There was general acknowledgment that giant strides have been made in Africa since the global launch of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in 1974. For example, there has been significant progress in introducing new and under-utilised vaccines; including hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type b, pneumococcal conjugate, rotavirus, meningococcal A conjugate, and human papillomavirus vaccines. In May 2012, African countries endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan at the World Health Assembly. However, more than six million children remain incompletely vaccinated in Africa leading to more than one million vaccine-preventable deaths annually. In addition, there are persistent problems with leadership and planning, vaccine stock management, supply chain capacity and quality, provider-parent communication, and financial sustainability. The conference delegates agreed to move from talking to taking concrete actions around children's health, and to ensure that African governments commit to saving children's lives. They would advocate for lower costs of immunisation programmes in Africa, perhaps through bulk buying and improved administration of vaccine rollout through the New Partnership for Africa's Development.
Pan African Medical Journal 2016; 23