Brazzaville – The quest to protect Africa from vaccine-preventable diseases has received a significant boost, with the commitment of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to invest US$ 1.8 billion to support African vaccine manufacturing, catching up missed children and pandemic preparedness.
The decision taken last week by the Gavi Board at its meeting in Accra, Ghana will help the continent to recover from the impact COVID-19 pandemic and be better prepared to respond to future public health emergencies.
This commitment comes at an opportune time when the sub-Saharan African region is witnessing stalled progress in immunization coverage, with the number of African children missing routine vaccinations rising from 6.2 million in 2019 to 7.8 million in 2022, translating into 2.8 million zero-dose children from 2019 to 2022 cumulatively.
Furthermore, the establishment of the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA), a financing instrument that will make up to US$1 billion, will strengthen ongoing efforts towards local vaccine manufacturing and address vaccine equity gaps identified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic highlighted beyond any doubt the critical importance of vaccination as a public health tool. This decision by the Board of Gavi will contribute significantly to saving lives and livelihoods,” says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.
At the 2023 WHO Africa Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) and the Immunization Stakeholders meeting, experts shared their commitment to advance efforts toward the attainment of global immunization. Therefore, through WHO’s coordination role, the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum (AVAREF), which facilitated the regulatory environment required for COVID-19 vaccine rollout and the RITAG have been positioned and ready to support these commitments by Gavi for a deepened outcome.
The WHO Regional Office for Africa also welcomes the decision by Gavi to translate lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic into concrete public health interventions, with a US$ 500 million investment to ensure the availability of funds for a future pandemic.
The lessons learned from decades of fighting and preventing diseases, including most recently, COVID-19 have led to the vision and strategies, articulated in WHO Africa Regional Office’s Ending Disease in Africa: vision, strategies and Special Initiatives, 2023-2030, which will drive the work moving forward, including the vital acceleration of immunization uptake across the region.
Anchored on this new strategy, WHO has supported countries in Africa in the development of innovative country plans to catch up with children who missed routine immunization.
This new strategy aligns with Gavi’s focus on protecting the next generation — particularly zero-dose children — through strengthening regional and country capacities on immunization and other diagnostics and therapeutics.