| Photo courtesy of APEC
SINGAPORE – To help measure the collective progress of APEC member economies towards implementing and advancing sustainable life-course immunization programs, APEC has announced the development of a regional dashboard on vaccination across the life course.
The dashboard builds on last year’s endorsed vaccine action plan, which sets strategies and policy targets for member economies to boost routine vaccination efforts and enhance the resilience and sustainability of immunization programs in the region through 2030.
The APEC Vaccine Task Force, under the purview of the APEC Health Working Group, engages policymakers and private sector representatives to work on vaccine-related issues and to identify the best approach to immunization, so member economies can better prevent infection and disease for all individuals.
“Vaccination is one of the world’s most important and cost-effective public health measures,” said Dr. Pongsadhorn Pokpermdee, Chair of the APEC Health Working Group, who oversees the development of the dashboard.
“The COVID-19 virus is still here, and while it is important for us to keep with our vaccine rollouts to protect people’s lives, we must not disregard the growing number of children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases,” Dr. Pongsadhorn added.
According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, the world has recorded the largest decline in childhood vaccinations in 30 years, with 25 million infants missing out on lifesaving vaccines.
A life-course approach to vaccination requires that immunization schedules and access to vaccinations respond to an individual’s life stage, lifestyle, and specific vulnerabilities or risks to infectious diseases that they may face.
By taking a life-course approach to immunization, APEC economies can better prevent infection and disease for all populations, fortify themselves against unforeseen challenges, improve economic and social inclusion and enable economic growth.
“The focus of this life-course approach is to maximize protection of populations across age groups and life circumstances,” said Dr. Michelle McConnell of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the co-leading representative of the vaccination sub-group under APEC’s Health Working Group. “Despite the compelling case for investing in immunization, there remains insufficient investment in this component of health systems.”
The dashboard provides the instrument to achieve critical objectives set by member economies for vaccination programs, such as establishing comprehensive immunization calendars and programs and widening economies’ vaccine coverage for all populations, including foreign residents, migrant workers, and refugees.
Learning from the pandemic, the dashboard also includes targets for economies to establish mechanisms to deliver vaccines during health emergencies and continue multisector collaboration within and across APEC economies to ensure a robust supply chain and access to vaccines across the globe.
“It is often said that you cannot manage what you do not measure,” said APEC Secretariat Executive Director Dr. Rebecca Sta Maria. “This dashboard provides APEC economies with tools to assess our progress in driving health, social and economic impact of immunization programs.”
“We have seen how quickly economies came together to facilitate the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines; we must learn from this and replicate it for other essential vaccines to protect our people and the next generation,” Dr. Sta Maria concluded.
–With Jay Domingo/PDM