Bulletin of the World Health Organization

An evaluation of infant immunization in Africa: is a transformation in progress?

L Arevshatian, CJ Clements, SK Lwanga, AO Misore, P Ndumbe, JF Seward, P Taylor

Objective

To assess the progress made towards meeting the goals of the African Regional Strategic Plan of the Expanded Programme on Immunization between 2001 and 2005.

Methods

We reviewed data from national infant immunization programmes in the 46 countries of WHO’s African Region, reviewed the literature and analysed existing data sources. We carried out face-to-face and telephone interviews with relevant staff members at regional and subregional levels.

Findings

The African Region fell short of the target for 80% of countries to achieve at least 80% immunization coverage by 2005. However, diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis-3 coverage increased by 15%, from 54% in 2000 to 69% in 2004. As a result, we estimate that the number of nonimmunized children declined from 1.4 million in 2002 to 900 000 in 2004. In 2004, four of seven countries with endemic or re-established wild polio virus had coverage of 50% or less, and some neighbouring countries at high risk of importation did not meet the 80% vaccination target. Reported measles cases dropped from 520 000 in 2000 to 316 000 in 2005, and mortality was reduced by approximately 60% when compared to 1999 baseline levels. A network of measles and yellow fever laboratories had been established in 29 countries by July 2005.

Conclusions

Rates of immunization coverage are improving dramatically in the WHO African Region. The huge increases in spending on immunization and the related improvements in programme performance are linked predominantly to increases in donor funding.

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