Last March, Sabin’s Sustainable Immunization Financing Program (SIF) organized a workshop with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to analyze how Latin American countries used legislation to ensure their national immunization programs are properly financed. Three parliamentarians from Bolivia, Colombia and El Salvador came to Washington, DC to present their work in this area. Three PAHO counterparts and four Sabin staff members also participated. Laws from Bolivia, Colombia and El Salvador were compared and contrasted. Three of the participants later presented these results at the Sabin Colloquium on SIF in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In 1980, only two Latin American countries had immunization laws on the books. The number rose steadily. By 2009, 26 countries had written some form of immunization financing legislation. That year, the countries were financing 99% of their routine immunization costs. Drawing from the regional experience, PAHO and the Latin American Parliament produced a Model Vaccine Law that year. Last year, PAHO conducted a second analysis of vaccine legislation in the Region. They considered three criteria: financial (existence of a budget line item for the purchase of vaccines and for the EPI program, existence of a mechanism for the purchase of vaccines, and tax exemption for the purchase of vaccines);declaratory (universal vaccination free of charge, vaccination as a public good guaranteed by the state); and operative (existence of the EPI, existence of a national vaccination framework, penalties for failure to vaccinate, and existence of a National Vaccination Advisory Committee). For more details on this study, see the presentation given by PAHO to the workshop.

The Region of the Americas provides a model for sustainable immunization financing which other regions can emulate. Legislation has been a key part of regional success. Eleven African and Asian Sabin SIF Program countries are currently drafting and enacting similar legislation: Cambodia, Cameroon, DR Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Nepal, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Uganda.