TANZANIA has set a world record in national immunisation coverage, thanks to the government-backed national Immunisation and Vaccine Programme currently under implementation.
A new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the country has attained 97 per cent, surpassing the target by the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP).
The rate is measured by percentage of children receiving the third dose of the diphtheria-tetanus- pertussis vaccine (DTP3), which is relatively high at 97 per cent in Tanzania, beating the GVAP target, which requires at least 90 per cent coverage in any given country.
The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children, Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya, told the 'Daily News' in Dar es Salaam yesterday that Tanzania was currently at 98 per cent on immunisation and vaccine, saying the country is headed for 100 per cent.
"We have already conducted a series of meetings with all district officials countrywide and we have agreed that we should meet our target by ensuring that immunisation reaches 100 per cent," said the PS.
According to extracts taken the maiden report on the 'Status of Immunisation in Africa,' which is set to be released worldwide this Friday, Tanzania is doing remarkably well in taking initiatives to prevent and combat diseases.
For the first time, WHO has published immunisation data at the sub-national level for over 140 member states worldwide and will be released later this week. Excerpt from the report was exclusively dispatched here from the Global Health Strategies (GHS) in Nairobi.
The GHS Manager, Mr Narmeen Haider, explained that the compilation was done by experts from the WHO; the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The country's Programme Manager for Immunisation and Vaccine, Dr Dafrossa Lyimo, told the 'Daily News' that the 98 per cent success was a result of ongoing 'Reach Every Child' strategy that makes immunisation an important treatment for every child in the country.
Among other strategies, Dr Lyimo said, the government in collaboration with other financiers was allocating funds that are availed to all public and private health centres to ensure every child is vaccinated.
"In the report, they use percentages but we, in the country, normally capitalise on absolute numbers before computing them into percentages... but we are now at 98 per cent and we will soon attain our 100 per cent target," said Dr Lyimo.
Save for Dar's positive strides, recently-released data show that at the current progress rate, Africa will miss the GVAP and Regional Strategic Plan for Immunization (RSPI) target of 90 per cent of respective national immunisation coverage by 2020.
According to the report, Tanzania is one of the only 11 countries in Africa that fund over 50 per cent of their national immunisation programmes. With a population of 50 million, Tanzania has recently introduced the measles second dose vaccine (MCV2), putting the country on track to eliminate measles by 2020.
As Africa nears polio eradication, critical funding for immunisation through the polio eradication programme is expected to decrease which means each country should brace to foot own bills, to that effect.
While Africa has made significant gains towards increasing access to immunisation in the past few decades, immunisation coverage has recently stagnated at 74 per cent, with exception of Tanzania.
According to the Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG), Africa is about to face several funding transitions that will make domestic investments in immunisation more critical than ever.
As Africa nears polio eradication, critical funding for immunization through the polio eradication programme is expected to ramp down. "Additionally, countries approaching middle-income status will transition away from Gavi support for immunisation in the coming years. Countries, including Tanzania, must prepare now to fill these gaps, so that progress on immunization is not reversed," says the report.
The national coverage data often conceals large inequalities in coverage and access within the country that can be discovered through sub-national monitoring. Targeting specific sub-national areas with focused interventions will help countries achieve high and equitable coverage and meet their GVAP and RSPI targets.
Several countries, Tanzania included, have also introduced the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and the rotavirus vaccine to protect the two biggest child killers - pneumonia and diarrhoea.
As far as Measles elimination is concerned, the RSPI has set ambitious targets for the elimination of measles in Africa. And, to achieve elimination by 2020, the framework calls for at least 95 per cent national and sub-national coverage with the measles-containing first dose (MCV1) vaccine.