Using immunization delivery strategies to accelerate progress in Africa towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals

Vaccine. 2008 Apr 7;26(16):1926-33. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2008.02.032. Epub 2008 Mar 5.


Integration of health services brings together common functions within and between organizations to solve common problems, developing a commitment to a shared vision and goals, and using common technologies and resources to achieve these goals. Integration has been the frustrated rally call of Primary Health Care for 30 years. This paper discusses the process of integrating child survival strategies and other heath services with immunization in Africa. Immunization is arguably the most successful health programme throughout the continent, making it the logical vehicle for add-on services. Strong health systems are the best way of delivering cost-effective child survival interventions in a most sustainable manner. But the reality in many African countries is that health systems have been weak for a number of reasons. Joining additional cost-effective child survival interventions on to immunization services may provide the needed boost. The unacceptably high childhood mortality in parts of Africa makes it the ideal location to undertake this exercise. The urgency to scale-up child survival interventions that have proven cost-effective is especially important if the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be met by 2015. Africa has more to loose than most in failing to scale up to meet these goals, bearing as it does the highest burden of childhood mortality in the world. But so far, prospects do not look good for achieving MDG-4 for the countries with the highest mortality rates. The timeliness of this initiative towards integration could not be better. In the last five years, countries in Africa have received massive injections of financial resources for polio eradication and measles control as well as additional funding for a range of immunization-strengthening activities and the introduction of new and under-utilized vaccines. While the data to support integration are limited, the information to hand suggests the effectiveness of the strategy. Where immunization performance is strong, immunization contacts may be excellent vehicles for additional interventions such as de-worming or Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI). But where an immunization service is struggling, adding another child survival intervention on to immunization might be the straw that breaks its back. Health managers have a wide range of options for adding on to immunization services, but the best choice will depend very much on local situations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / organization & administration
  • Child Health Services / trends*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Communicable Diseases / mortality*
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / trends*
  • Developing Countries
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Immunization*
  • Primary Health Care / trends*
  • Survival