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

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid