Speech of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the 25th Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Immunization and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the Western Pacific Region

26 July 2016 – Manila

Distinguished participants and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen:

Welcome to the 25th meeting of the Technical Advisory Group – or TAG – on Immunization and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the Western Pacific Region.

Since last year's meeting, Member States have made solid progress towards achieving the goals of the Regional Framework for Implementation of the Global Vaccine Action Plan in the Western Pacific.

The framework was endorsed by the Regional Committee in 2014.

As of 2015, a total of 16 countries achieved the regional target of coverage above 95% with three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine. Twenty-one countries have achieved coverage of 90% or above.

The 2017 regional goal of reducing the prevalence of hepatitis B in 5-year-old children to less than 1% has been achieved ahead of time.

Despite the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus emergence in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, we have maintained our polio-free status — thanks to sound response efforts.

And all together the Region successfully coordinated the switch from tri-valent to bi-valent oral polio vaccine. That was an impressive feat for public health.

I congratulate all of you for your role in these achievements.

Now we must focus on the challenges that remain.

Financial sustainability is a growing issue for many Member States, particularly as the costs of national immunization programmes increase.

Many achievements have been made with the support of donors and partners. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has played a crucial role in new vaccine introduction and strengthening immunization systems in low- and middle-income countries.

Now Member States need to find ways to support programmes besides donors. Eventually programmes must be self-sustaining. Global vaccine supply shortages and issues with transparency in pricing also threaten the sustainability of programmes for all Member States.

Inequitable access to immunization remains a challenge throughout the countries and areas of the Region. Even high-income countries face pockets of unreached or under-reached populations.

We have prioritized increasing access to vaccination for specific population groups — such as migrants, minority ethnic groups and people in hard-to-reach areas.

Throughout the Region, Member States have reported growing concerns of vaccine hesitancy. This situation has the potential to cause delays in acceptance or refusals of safe vaccines — needlessly putting populations at risk for preventable diseases. Tailored strategies that identify groups affected by vaccine hesitancy and address the reasons affecting people's confidence will be important to ensure more successful immunization programmes.

We must now find ways to support Member States to address these challenges — to sustain gains and reach the remaining targets.

WHO and Member States appreciate the TAG deliberation on these issues. Your expertise and guidance is vital to remain on track to meet the goals and objectives of the regional framework.

I wish you a productive session and look forward to reviewing your recommendations.

Have a pleasant stay in Manila.

Thank you.