Addis Ababa | 14 July 2015. Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Chief Executive Officer Dr Seth Berkley and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ms Yoka Brandt participated in a high level polio vaccination event at Selam Health Centre in Addis Ababa. Also present at the event were UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibe, US Ambassador Ms Patricia M. Haslach, Brazil Ambassador Mrs Isabel Cristina, President and CEO of PATH Dr Davis Steve, and Rotary National Polio Plus Committee Chairperson PDG Dr Tadesse Alemu as well as national and international EPI partners, health workers and mothers with their children. “Strong leadership, political will and coordination are key to sustaining the gains made in interrupting polio transmission in Ethiopia and Africa,” said Dr Margaret Chan, commending Ethiopia’s aggressive response to the 2013 outbreak of wild polio virus. “Horn of Africa countries should continue to immunise all at risk age groups until the threat drops to zero and eradication is achieved. And this is possible only through high quality immunisation activities for all communities.” When the wild polio virus outbreak in the Horn of Africa spread to Ethiopia in August 2013, the Government of Ethiopia intensified vigilance, surveillance and mass immunisation campaigns, together with partners like WHO, UNICEF, USAID, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rotary International. Fifteen supplementary immunisation campaigns were implemented with a focus on high risk areas. Cross-border coordination was heightened, with Horn of Africa countries coming together to implement synchronised response activities. It has been 18 months since the last case of wild polio virus was reported in Ethiopia, and 11 months since the last case in Africa. Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu said, “We will focus on equity and quality for every child and mother in Ethiopia,” adding, “The Government of Ethiopia continues to be committed to eradicating polio from Ethiopia, and Africa.” He further affirmed that “The Government of Ethiopia will continue to engage communities for active participation in routine immunisation, and will continue to build strong health partnerships.” With a view of sustaining the achievements in interruption of wild polio virus transmission, and strengthening the immunisation system, the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, with support from partners, is currently implementing a two-year Routine Immunisation Improvement Plan 2014-2015. The plan pays special attention to low performing prioritised zones and accelerating efforts to support such vulnerable zones to improve performance, among other priority initiatives.
Ms. Yoka Brandt, asserted, “Immunisation, especially routine immunisation, is a core priority within UNICEF, and it will continue to be. With the availability of new innovations, new vaccines, and new research and evidence, we can go fast and far.” Immunisation is among the most cost effective interventions we can provide to our children. Yet, one in five children are not fully immunised worldwide. In Ethiopia and Africa, children in remote and marginalised communities are more likely to be missed. It is these same children that carry the highest risk of diseases that vaccines can prevent. Therefore we must refine our strategies to reach these children and include them in our services. Reaching every community is an approach that strives at inclusion of all communities, especially the marginalised children, ensuring resources and services are available and monitoring is in place. Dr Seth Berkley, highlighting GAVI’s commitment to strengthening routine immunisation, said, “Strong routine immunisation systems are a bedrock of healthy societies and are central to global plans for the eradication of polio. By working together, we are reaching more children than ever before with lifesaving vaccines and the GAVI partners are committed to supporting countries like Ethiopia to sustain and build on their progress on immunisation.” WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and other immunisation partners remain committed to support African governments in reaching every community with vaccination – the gift of life.