“Immunization is a high impact and cost effective intervention in protecting and saving lives, giving full opportunities to individuals to develop their potentials thus leading to sustainable socio-economic growth and the attainment of Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
He averred that vaccines and vaccinations reduce infant and under-five deaths and disability caused by CD vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) and save the costs involved in the management of these diseases, while freeing up the/ physician’s time to focus on other diseases including emerging infections and diseases.
The Chinese Counselor representing the Embassy, Zhang Xueqian, said, according to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Declaration and Action Plan, China will continue to actively implement the China-Africa public health cooperation plan, addressing the challenges presented by the sudden outbreak of major communicable diseases, and supporting Africa in strengthening its public health control, prevention and treatment system.
“Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is an important threat to global health. The virus causes around 240 million chronic infections and 780,000 deaths from cirrhosis and liver cancer annually. Recognizing the large global disease burden, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 include combating hepatitis.”
He said vaccination is the single most important intervention against hepatitis B infection and, given that the higher risk of chronic liver diseases occurs when people get infected at birth; a birth dose is the most effective tool to decrease the amount of chronic carriers on the long term.
Deputy Director of China CDC, Feng Zijian, said in 2014, member states in the WHO African Region adopted a goal to reduce the prevalence of chronic HBV infection in children under-five to less than 2% by 2020. Since prenatal or early postnatal transmission is an important cause of chronic infections, the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine should be given as soon as possible after birth.
“Since 2009, WHO has recommended that all countries include a birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine (HepB-BD) in their national schedule in addition to the three doses of hepatitis B vaccine usually given at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age, to prevent prenatal transmission of hepatitis B and subsequent progression to chronic hepatitis B infection.”
He said China CDC is ready to share China’s immunization program experience, and to work together with international partners like WHO, Gavi and Africa CDC, to accelerate the introduction of hepatitis B vaccine birth dose in Africa.
The US CDC boss in Sierra Leone, Dr.Reinhard Kaiser, said in Sierra Leone, they are currently working in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on a serosurvey among mother-infant pairs and children in three districts. The survey, he said, will assess the risk of mother-to-child HBV transmission, which would inform the birth dose introduction, and evaluate the proportion of children that have been protected by the current hepatitis B vaccination program, that will provide important information on how well the current program is working. “We not only hope the findings from the survey will provide useful information to the Sierra Leonean Government, but will also be informative for other West African countries that are considering introducing the birth dose.”
Dr. Maya Malarski of GAVI said she is happy that Sierra Leone is working with other partners to win the fight on hepatitis B as they share knowledge and experience, assess needs and barriers, and discuss measures and solutions towards the introduction of hepatitis B vaccine birth dose.
“Let’s wish the meeting is productive and successful for Sierra Leone so that other African countries can learn from us here.