Immunization prevents illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases. As Africa made improvements regarding immunization, Eritrea has been applauded for its effective 95% immunization coverage throughout the country. From 18th to 20th March, the annual EPI meeting was held at Hotel Asmara Palace, where the Eastern and Southern African countries shared their experiences and challenges on vaccination programs.
Dr. Shaya Ibrahim Asindua, Deputy Representative of UNICEF appreciated the fact the meeting was held in Eritrea “We are delighted that it is being hosted by Eritrea. This meeting dwells on issues of sharing experiences, new technologies and innovations. Eritrea has good experience to share; it has very high performance in covering the immunization over 95% for almost all vaccines. It has well-developed and maintained chain of vaccine management systems. Its effectiveness has been proven. This is one of the areas that other countries could really learn from Eritrea. Not all countries have the same record of high immunization coverage like the country. One of the biggest issues other countries are facing could be data collection. They need to focus on insuring in providing good quality and collection of data. Besides, another big issue is the children are not still covered; every child needs to be reached with immunization as it is their right. And this is an area that all countries need to focus on.
WHO Eritrea representative Dr. Josephine Namboze also stressed countries taking part in this meeting have different levels of challenges and success rates and this meeting is an opportunity to learn from each other’s experience. “There are four categories to where the countries are divided. Countries in Number one category are those with no infrastructure or are in unstable political situations which are having challenges with their own immunization program. Second category countries have challenges to reach children with the right vaccines. In the third category are countries that couldn’t reach the desired percentage of immunization coverage, which is 90%. The fourth category includes countries which were able to reach the goal, which is what every country is trying to be at. Looking at the example of Eritrea, other countries’ challenges can be the community involvement. Eritrea holds good community participation and, therefore, was able to mobilize communities to participate in the immunization program. When you have that as the key, it is easy for any country to overcome the issues of geographical access.”