The third Annual Regional Conference on Immunisation (ARCI), organised by WHO/AFRO, took place from 5 to 7 December 2011 in Windhoek, Namibia, followed by the Decade of Vaccines (DoV) Collaboration Consultation, and the African Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Committee (ARICC), on 8 December 2011.
The theme for the third ARCI meeting was "Towards a polio-free Africa".
Participants received an update on attaining the polio eradication milestones in Africa, as well as highlighting the need to continue to strengthen health and surveillance systems. The meeting emphasised the importance of routine immunisation and reaching the unreached to better control and prevent unnecessary deaths and suffering.
The following items were addressed during three plenary sessions:
(1) Achieving polio eradication milestones;
(2) Strengthening immunisation systems; and
(3) Accelerating the control of vaccine-preventable diseases.
In addition to the plenary sessions, two parallel sessions were organised.
The first parallel session discussed:
(1) Interrupting wild polio virus transmission in priority countries;
(2) Polio eradication, the remaining challenges.
The second parallel sessions were built around:
(1) Reaching the unreached;
(2) New vaccines and their impact on disease burden;
(3) Immunisation financing challenges.
Throughout the three sessions on "poster presentations and video clips", the training DVD developed by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation of Kenya, WHO and NESI, on "The introduction of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine in Kenya" was shown.
The ARCI meeting was organised back-to-back with the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration.
The Decade of Vaccines Collaboration is an effort under the leadership of WHO, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United States National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases that will further define the DoV vision and develop a Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP).
More than 180 participants including Ministry of Health representatives, EPI managers, WHO and UNICEF staff, Civil Society Organizations, donors and academics/researchers took part in the briefing session and small group discussion session. Discussions were built around the following themes: (1) Needs and opportunities in immunisation for the countries over the next decade; (2) Countries commit to immunisation as a priority; (3) Equity of service delivery; (4) Integration of immunisation systems into strengthened health systems; and (5) Operational and implementation research needs at country level.
NESI contributed to the discussions in the group on “Integration of immunisation systems into strengthened health systems” and recommended that the section should be aligned with the Health Systems Building Blocks. The consultation made recommendations on how to improve the GVAP draft document: increase emphasis in the document on capacity building for both health training institutions and health care workers, coordination and public private partnerships; include reference to MDGs; align sections with Health Systems Building Blocks.
The last meeting in Windhoek was the ARICC meeting, which gathered a wide group of donors to international immunisation efforts, development banks and national governments to discuss the financial sustainability of immunisation programmes in Africa. WHO, UNICEF and GAVI presented their 2011 financial reports. WHO/AFRO presented the strategic directions for the immunisation programme, as well as the plan of action for 2012. Contribution statements were made by donors and partners. NESI pledged continued technical and financial support for capacity building activities in the African Region.