Every year, around 31 million children in sub-Saharan Africa contract diseases that are easily prevented with vaccines. In 2017, the Heads of State nationwide endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization. This pledge promises that everyone in Africa will receive vaccines regardless of their socio-economic status. If all children obtain disease preventable vaccines, parents and children can spend less time in hospitals and more time living healthy lives. These are five facts about vaccine-preventable disease in sub-Saharan Africa
5 Facts About Vaccine-Preventable Disease in Africa
- Polio Eradication: Sub-Saharan Africa is close to reaching polio-free status. Nigeria, the continent’s last infected country, has celebrated three years without any new polio cases. If the country remains polio-free after December 2019, sub-Saharan Africa could be officially declared polio-free. This milestone will be achieved thanks to President Mohammad Buhari. He ordered that $26.7 million be funded to the country’s Polio Eradication Programme back in 2016.
- The Cost of Disease: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccine-preventable diseases and deaths cost sub-Saharan Africa $13 billion annually. Outside efforts could redirect this funding toward other important endeavors in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, the region could strengthen health systems and the promotion of economic growth. Africa’s Program Manager for WHO’s regional office states that, because sub-Saharan Africa requires outside funding for immunization, “governments have a central role to play to fill upcoming funding gaps and ensure immunization programs are strong and vigilant.”
- Active Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: WHO estimates that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 58 percent of deaths due to pertussis and 41 percent from tetanus. Furthermore, measles causes 59 percent of deaths while yellow fever is responsible for 80 percent of deaths. Yellow fever, considered to be an epidemic during outbreaks, claims thousands of lives. Tetanus and pertussis also continue to kill thousands in sub-Saharan Africa annually.
- Cause of the Spread Despite Efforts: Despite high vaccination rates, sub-Saharan Africa still struggles with vaccine-preventable diseases. This is due to low vaccine coverage in “477 geographical clusters” across sub-Saharan Africa. These clusters occur due to a lack of health education and limited to no access to public healthcare. Clusters make it difficult to achieve herd immunity. The monitoring of vulnerable areas must occur in order to strengthen disease elimination programs.
- Organizations that Help: WHO is an especially impactful organization. Namely, its efforts consist of monitoring and assessing the impact of strategies for reducing illness related to vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2017, Nigeria’s minister of health declared the meningitis outbreak over, a feat that was achieved with the support of WHO and its partners. WHO also supported sub-Saharan Africa in its feat of preventing up to 500,000 cases of meningitis. Reactive vaccination campaigns led to the vaccination of more than 2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
Vaccine-preventable diseases have not been completely eradicated in sub-Saharan Africa; however, major efforts are in progress. It is still important to mobilize efforts to ensure that governments are supporting vaccination programs that will see the end of vaccine-preventable diseases.
– Lisa Di Nuzzo