Georgia on the Way to Full Immunization Program Ownership
On October 13, Mike McQuestion, Director of Sabin’s Sustainable Immunization Financing (SIF) program, spoke to officials in the parliament in Tbilisi, Georgia, lauding the country’s impressive performance on immunization and calling for other countries to follow its example.
“Already you’ve eliminated polio myelitis...tetanus…a series of other diseases are disappearing literally from Georgia. This is a really great accomplishment, and it requires the cooperation of government, parliament and the people,” McQuestion said, speaking through a translator.
With vaccine hesitancy rising around the world, McQuestion urged Georgia in his remarks to maintain strong advocacy for immunization. “If we do not fully inform and educate the society, then we have a chance of losing the high coverage of vaccines,” he cautioned.
Every country is always experiencing a “health transition,” said McQuestion. Georgia is moving quickly through its transition. Diseases are disappearing because health programs are working. The government is investing more, demonstrated by a 215 percent increase in routine immunization spending since 2006. However, immunization costs are increasing even faster. During the same period, the government’s share of total routine immunization expenditures actually fell, from 58 percent to 49 percent. This means that, even though the economy is growing, Georgia’s immunization program has become more dependent on outside funding sources, not less.
SIF works with countries to advance efforts toward domestically funded, sustainable immunization financing, acting as an intermediary between government, parliament and international organizations. Since they began working with Georgia in July 2014, the SIF team has met with officials from the Ministries of Health and Finance and parliamentary leaders to familiarize them with best practices in sustainable immunization financing. Georgian counterparts are currently reviewing existing immunization legislation and tracking immunization expenditures — two strategies for achieving full country ownership of the immunization program.
McQuestion closed with a message of hope, saying “There are only about 12 cases of polio myelitis left in the world this year. That represents more than 20 years of collective action by all countries. If all countries have strong programs like Georgia, we can eradicate even more diseases.”
Watch McQuestion’s full remarks beginning at 3:45 in the video.