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APEC countries work on strengthening general immunisation schemes


The 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have developed a 10-year strategy to support the region’s routine vaccination efforts and enhance the resilience and sustainability of immunisation programmes in the region through 2030.

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The ongoing health and economic crises have disrupted global routine immunisation programmes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 23 million children missed out on their basic childhood vaccines. Another study found that 95 per cent of economies in the Asia-Pacific region reported disruption to routine vaccination, with infancy and school-entry age vaccinations most impacted.

A vaccine task force was established last year, comprised of policymakers and private sector representatives, to work on vaccine-related issues, and to identify the best approach to immunisation so member economies can better prevent infection and disease.

“Vaccination is one of the world’s most important and cost-effective public health measures,” said Dr Michelle McConnell, planning group chair of the APEC Life Sciences Innovation Forum. “While the priority now is to vaccinate as many people as possible against Covid, we still need to be able to provide robust immunisation programmes against other vaccine-preventable diseases, so Covid’s impact is not compounded by additional outbreaks.”

The APEC Action Plan on Vaccination across the Life-Course details key pillars for a successful immunisation programme and policy targets. With a collective goal that by 2030, all 21 APEC member economies will have implemented resilient and sustainable immunisation programmes to protect the health and well-being of all populations. This will enable economies to achieve the WHO Immunisation Agenda 2030.

“A life-course approach to vaccination requires that immunisation schedules and access to vaccinations respond to an individual’s stage in life, their lifestyle and specific vulnerabilities or risks to infectious disease that they may face,” added Dr McConnell.

She further highlighted that taking a life-course approach will improve equity in health outcomes, reduce burdens on social systems, lower treatment costs, and ease economic burdens such as illness-induced wage and productivity loss.

The document puts forth a series of recommendations that will help move the region forward toward resilient and sustainable immunisation programmes by:

• Promoting recognition of vaccination and vaccine innovation

• Prioritising access to and uptake of vaccinations

• Building government capacity in health security and pandemic preparedness

• Strengthening confidence in vaccination and building a resilient immunisation programme

• Enabling investment and innovation in vaccine research and development, manufacturing and delivery

• Accelerating regulatory harmonisation for vaccines across APEC economies, and

• Establishing proven and innovative mechanisms for sustainable immunisation financing.

“It has never been more apparent that vaccination is critical to the strength of our economies,” said Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, executive director of the APEC Secretariat. “APEC has a unique role to play in supporting the region’s effective trade, regulation and investment in vaccines to protect our population, both in the midst of Covid-19 and far beyond.”

The APEC Life Science Innovation Forum in collaboration with the APEC Health Working Group will host the virtual 11th High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy on Tuesday.

APEC comprises Thailand, Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Chile, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

Published : August 23, 2021

By : THE NATION