Advocating for efforts to protect African children, families, and communities from the threat of infectious diseases : report of the First International African Vaccinology Conference

Wiysonge, Charles Shey ; Waggie, Zainab ; Hawkridge, Anthony ; Schoub, Barry ; Madhi, Shabir Ahmed ; Rees, Helen ; Hussey, Gregory (2016)

CITATION: Wiysonge, C. S., et al. 2016. Advocating for efforts to protect African children, families, and communities from the threat of infectious diseases : report of the First International African Vaccinology Conference. The Pan African Medical Journal, 23:53, doi:10.11604/pamj.2016.23.53.9097.

The original publication is available at http://www.panafrican-med-journal.com

Article

One means of improving healthcare workers' knowledg e of and attitudes to vaccines is through running v accine conferences which are accessible, affordable, and relevant to their everyday work. Va rious vaccinology conferences are held each year wo rldwide. These meetings focus heavily on basic science with much discussion about new develo pments in vaccines, and relatively little coverage of policy, advocacy, and communication issues. A negligible proportion of delegates at the se conferences come from Africa, home to almost 40% of the global burden of vaccine- preventable 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 conte nt of the first International African Vaccinology C onference was planned to be different; to focus on the science, with a major part of discussi ons being on clinical, programmatic, policy, and ad vocacy issues. The conference was held in Cape Town, South Africa, from 8 to 11 November 2012 . The theme of the conference was “Advocating for e fforts to protect African children, families, and communities from the threat of infect ious diseases”. There were more than 550 registered participants from 55 countries (including 37 African countries). There were nine pre-conferen ce workshops, ten plenary sessions, and 150 oral an d 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 g lobal launch of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in 1974. For example, there has bee n significant progress in introducing new and under -utilised vaccines; including hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type b, pneumococcal conju gate, rotavirus, meningococcal A conjugate, and hum an 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 t han one million vaccine-preventable deaths annually . In addition, there are persistent problems with leadership and planning, vaccine stock managem ent, supply chain capacity and quality, provider-pa rent 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 liv es. They would advocate for lower costs of immunisa tion programmes n Africa, perhaps through bulk buying and improved administration of vaccine rollout through the New Partnership for Afr ica's Development.

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