March 28, 2011
New life-saving vaccines will save millions more lives in developing countries, but the cost of immunizing a child exceeds the total per capita government spending on all health care in many developing nations. Sustainable vaccine financing increasingly represents a critical aspect of maintaining a stable vaccination program.
To help nations develop innovative financing solutions, the Sustainable Immunization Financing(SIF) program, of the Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin), today convened the first ever high-level meeting focused on sustainable immunization financing. Sabin's first "Colloquium on Sustainable Immunization Financing" brought together over 75 delegates representing ministries of health and finance and parliaments in 15 African, Asian and Latin American countries. The colloquium took place March 28-29, 2011, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
One of the most successful public health interventions ever, immunization has eradicated smallpox, lowered the global incidence of polio by 99% since 1988 and achieved dramatic reductions in a wide range of other diseases.
"We know that effective vaccination programs contribute to healthier, more productive societies," said Dr. Ciro de Quadros, Sabin Executive Vice President. "Immunization is one of the best investments a country can make. Our goal for each country we work with is to identify long-term sources of financing and assure a fiscally sustainable national immunization program."
Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, added, "External funding for vaccines in the developing world is not guaranteed. Helping countries find ways to increase and sustain their national immunization budgets is a critical-and necessary-public health priority."
Global health partners, such as the GAVI Alliance, have attracted new attention and donor funds to immunization. This in turn has attracted new vaccine makers to the market, increased competition, and helped reduce vaccine prices.
"Bringing vaccine prices down is a critical element to sustainable vaccine financing," said Dagfinn Høybråten, Chair of the GAVI Alliance Board. "With our market shaping work, including the Advanced Market Commitment, we have facilitated lower vaccine prices, but there is enormous work still to be done."
As national immunization programs expand and new vaccines become available, increasing costs place strains on low-income countries. Possible sustainable funding mechanisms include increased funding from current government revenues, development of decentralized immunization budgets and the creation of national immunization trust funds.
To date, six of the countries attending the colloquium - Sierra Leone, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Cambodia and Nepal - have achieved government budgetary increases for routine immunizations following targeted SIF advocacy efforts and nine countries are preparing new immunization legislation that will safeguard immunization funding.
"Immunization is a public health program that reaches all levels of society and has a measurable, positive, and cost effective influence on a nation's physical and economic health," said Dr. Baburam Marasini, Chief, Health Sector Reform Unit, Ministry of Health, Nepal. "It is with the wellbeing of our future generations in mind that the Women, Children and Social Welfare Committee of Legislature Parliament of Nepal has requested to develop a national immunization trust fund and immunization law to secure sustainable immunization financing in the long run. Immunization is a high priority program in Nepal."
The 18 countries participating in the colloquium included thirteen of SIF's fifteen pilot countries-Cambodia, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Uganda-as well as Bolivia and El Salvador. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Sustainable Immunization Financing Program has been working since 2007 to ensure accessibility and affordability of immunizations, an essential public health good, in each of its 15 pilot countries.