News / Africa

Researchers: Immunization Efforts Falling Short

The Vaccines for Africa Initiative is based at the University of Cape Town.The Vaccines for Africa Initiative is based at the University of Cape Town.
x
The Vaccines for Africa Initiative is based at the University of Cape Town.
The Vaccines for Africa Initiative is based at the University of Cape Town.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Researchers said that despite progress immunizing African children against disease, vaccination efforts are falling far short of what’s needed. They warn that vaccine supply and cost need urgent attention.


University of Cape Town researchers say there are “failures within the immunization system.” 

“Well, there’s a very wide range if you look at African countries in terms of performance of immunization programs. Some are doing very well and others are doing very badly. So this disparity is a very big concern,” said Shingai Machingaidze, associate researcher at the university’s Vaccines for Africa Initiative.

Similar problems exist in developing countries outside Africa, as well.

“For the countries that are not doing so well in terms of their vaccine coverage it means that large numbers of children do not get basic vaccinations before they reach one year. 1.5 million vaccine preventable disease deaths were recorded in 2010,” she said.

Professor Gregory Hussey, director of the Vaccines for Africa Initiative, said that polio, which had been on the verge of eradication, remains entrenched in some places.

University of Cape Town Professor Gregory Hussey speaking at the first International African Vaccinology Conference, November 2012University of Cape Town Professor Gregory Hussey speaking at the first International African Vaccinology Conference, November 2012
x
University of Cape Town Professor Gregory Hussey speaking at the first International African Vaccinology Conference, November 2012
University of Cape Town Professor Gregory Hussey speaking at the first International African Vaccinology Conference, November 2012
“There’s a worldwide move to eradicate polio in the next five to 10 years. The stumbling blocks in Africa are in fact [in] Nigeria where there’s continued transmission of polio because of sub-optimal uptake of polio vaccine," he said. "And I’m sure you’re aware of the fact that the people refusing to immunize their children for a list of reasons – religious, political, etcetera, etcetera.”

The World Health Organization had said after polio immunization was disrupted in northern Nigeria several years ago, that particular strain of the virus spread all the way to Ethiopia.

Continued outbreaks of measles, Hussey said, are another example of immunization system failure.

“With our porous borders in Africa disease can spread from one place to another place, especially if children are not being immunized properly,” he said.

Hussey said that while various U.N. and international agencies have campaigns advocating immunization, Africa lacked a home-grown program to do so.

“We started this Vaccines for Africa Initiative precisely to try to make people more aware of issues around vaccine and immunization practices. And this includes not only the individuals who are delivering the vaccines, the healthcare workers, but also the policymakers, as well as communities, who should be receiving the vaccines,” he said.

A major obstacle to effective immunization is the cost of vaccines. For example, more countries are starting to introduce vaccines against pneumonia and diarrheal disease – two of the leading killers of young children.

Hussey said, “You’re looking at pushing up the price from a few dollars up to about $58. And that’s way beyond the per capita health expenditure of most countries in Africa, which probably is around about $10 to $20 per person.”

An international public-private partnership, the GAVI Alliance, plays a major role in helping developing countries introduce vaccines. GAVI negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of a vaccine dose. But Hussey warned that cheaper prices for vaccines won’t last forever. 

“Once they sort of graduate from GAVI they still will have to purchase those vaccines. So there are a number of countries that are going to graduate in the next year or two and that’s a problem for them," he said. "Because how to they then fund the supply of those vaccines?”

He said that some countries that can afford the vaccines on their own have not made child health a priority.

The University of Cape Town researchers say, “African leaders must be held accountable for meeting agreed country immunization targets and honoring international commitments.”

Last November, the first International African Vaccinology Conference was held in Cape Town, South Africa where participants adopted the Cape Town Declaration. Among other things it called for strengthening childhood immunization programs; encouraging regional co-operation; strengthening purchasing power by pooling resources and ensuring African governments commit to saving children's lives.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs