We are pleased to announce the convening of the 1st APIC Summit on Infectious Diseases and Immunization. Keeping with the theme of the World Health Day 2023 ‘Health for All’, the theme of the summit is ‘Vaccinations for All: Access, Confidence and Equity’. The summit will bring together experts from Asia-Pacific and beyond to discuss critical issues related to vaccine access, distribution and acceptance.
As we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that immunization is a key tool in mitigating the spread and impact of infectious diseases. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the lack of equal access to vaccines, particularly for low-and-middle income countries highlighted significant barriers to achieving health equity. The pandemic also exacerbated a backslide in vaccine coverage, undoing decades of progress achieved by sustained efforts of the global health community. The WHO and UNICEF have recorded the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years with growing numbers of children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases such as measles. Alongside that has been a concerning decline in public confidence in vaccines in general, with 53 out 55 countries showing declines in the 2023 UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report. The same report revealed that 67 million children missed out entirely or partially on immunization between 2019 and 2021, with the East Asia and Pacific region showing particularly large declines. (see figure below from the UNICEF 2023 SOWC report).
Along with this backsliding in immunization coverage, we have also witnessed the spread of infectious diseases in new geographies as a result of global warming and climate change. A concerted regional and global multi-sectoral response is required to overcome these challenges. While we mourn these alarming developments, we also celebrate the power of science and multi-stakeholder collaboration in the unprecedented development of vaccines to mitigate the public health impact of the pandemic.
We envision the summit as a regional forum to discuss the latest evidence on what works and what doesn’t to increase vaccine uptake, particularly among zero-dose children, adolescents and older adults. It will be a platform for participants to share best practices, and innovative solutions to improving vaccine coverage, drawing from contextualised approaches that have been successful in the region or similar contexts. We will also focus on addressing the challenges of vaccine equity, including ensuring access to vaccines for underserved populations. The need for people-centred and tailored strategies to build trust in vaccines and immunization, counter misinformation and increase vaccine uptake particularly among vulnerable communities will be highlighted. The summit will conclude with a session on the development of new vaccines and other interventions for emerging diseases. We strongly believe that the future can benefit from scientific advances and innovations showcased during the pandemic. We will attempt to gaze at the crystal ball and contemplate what may be in the pipeline for future vaccines to mitigate the impact of future outbreaks and pandemics.
With this array of topics, the conference aims to engage a wide spectrum of participants including researchers, policy makers, the media, industry, the general public, patient/consumer groups and civil society. We hope that the summit will reinforce the benefits and value of immunization in saving lives across the life-course, among the people and communities in the region.