The first EAC immunization and vaccines partner’s meeting opened Friday at the EAC Head quartets in Arusha.
Opening the meet, Secretary General Dr. Richard Sezibera noted that this important meeting comes at a time when the EAC integration process is including cooperation on health, quoting the EAC Treaty Chapter 21 under (Article 118), (a) with respect to co-operation in health activities; the Partner States undertake to, among others, take joint action towards the prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases and to control pandemics and epidemics of communicable and vector-borne diseases such as HIV-AIDS, cholera, malaria, hepatitis and yellow fever that might endanger the health and welfare of the residents of the Partner States, and to co-operate in facilitating mass immunization and other public health community campaigns.
The Secretary General commended the continued collaboration and support from the Federal Government of Germany in the strengthening and expansion of regional integration in the EAC.
He said that, “the new 20 million Euros German support for the EAC regional immunization programme will be implemented in collaboration with the GAVI Alliance contributing towards the implementation of the resolutions and commitments of the 2ndGAVI Alliance Partners Forum that was held in Dar es Salaam, in December 2012”.
The meeting called for increased role and participation of African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to promote and support acceleration of immunization programmes in Africa, especially the introduction of new vaccines that include the two that are being prioritized for support through this new German Financial contribution to the EAC - GAVI Alliance regional initiative, namely; the new vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal diseases.
The expansion and acceleration of the introduction of new vaccines in the EAC Partner States contributes to one of the three major goals of the East African Community Open Health Initiative (OHI) that is geared towards sharing of best practices and acceleration of “Innovations to Improve Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Outcomes” in the East African Community Partner States.
EAC Partner States representatives present at the meeting reported they had accelerated programs for introducing vaccines for pneumonia (pneumococcal vaccine), Diarrhoea (Rotavirus vaccine), Human Papilloma virus vaccine (HPV) and Hepatitis B vaccine though the coverage is at varying levels.
Among the challenges noted in implementing the scale up programs for vaccine are among others;
1. Cold chain management is still a challenge due to inadequate infrastructure (storage capacity) and cold chain equipment.
2. Human capital to implement the program
3. Low immunization in hard to reach areas which are mainly in the cross boarder in nature
4. A need for proper monitoring and evaluation and data synchronization within the different vaccine programs
KwF and GAVI identified a need for global and regional coordination mechanisms to scale up immunization inventions also engage the countries for maximum benefit of the programs but however noted a limitation of resources for implementation. Both GAVI and UNICEF are involved in the introduction of new vaccines and UNICEF is planning to launch a new Polio vaccine in 2018.
The meeting discussed the establishment of a joint Steering Committee (JSC) of the EAC Regional Immunization Programme as well as the EAC Secretariat’s participation in National Immunization Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee (ICC) meetings. Among other things the meeting echoed the need for a vaccine for Malaria because malaria is prominent in the region.
Present in the meeting were Dr. Klaus Mueller Director and Head of the Regional Department for West and East Africa - German Development Bank (KfW), Daniel Thornton, Director Strategic Initiatives, GAVI Alliance Secretariat, Violaine Messager Resource Mobilization Officer at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance), Dr. Thomas Walter - Senior Advisor Industrialization, TRIPS and Pharmaceutical Sector Promotion, EAC-GIZ Programme on Regional Integration (Arusha, Tanzania,
Others were Dr. Wesley Ronoh - Senior Regional Advisor, Industrialisation and Pharmaceutical Sector Promotion, EAC-GIZ Regional Integration Programme (Arusha, Tanzania), Dr. Nasir Yusuf, Regional Immunization Adviser, UNICEF Regional Office for Eastern & Southern Africa (ESARO), Joyce Kevin Abalo, Coordinator, East African Health Platform (EAHPF), EAC Partner States’ National Immunization Managers, Heads of Child Health Departments and National Vaccine Cold Chain Logistics Coordinators and EAC Secretariat Staff.