Opening Speech of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the 27th Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on Immunization and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the Western Pacific Region

19 June 2018 — Manila

Distinguished participants and colleagues
Ladies and gentlemen

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to Manila, and to the 27th meeting of this Technical Advisory Group. It is always great to see so many familiar faces back here to support us in this crucial area of work.

Countries in our Region have made great progress since last year's meeting. We are closer than ever to achieving the goals set out in our Regional Framework for implementing the Global Vaccine Action Plan.

Let me quickly refresh your memory on the eight immunization goals that we have set for our Region:

First, sustain our polio-free status;

Second, accelerate control of hepatitis B;

Third, eliminate measles;

Fourth, eliminate rubella;

Fifth, eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus;

Six, accelerate control of Japanese encephalitis;

Seven, introduce new vaccines; and

Eighth, meet our regional vaccination coverage targets.

Let’s start with the good news.

Since being certified in 2000, the Region has maintained its polio-free status – despite some challenges.

Last year, the Lao People's Democratic Republic stopped an outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived polio virus type 1 with a strong and fast response.

Over the past two years, Cambodia, China, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Viet Nam have all conducted polio supplementary immunization activities to close population immunity gaps.

In spite of these efforts, recently a case of acute flaccid paralysis perhaps caused by vaccine-derived polio virus was found in Morebe Province in PNG – a very worrying development. In response to this case, comprehensive field investigation has been completed and lab testing is ongoing to determine whether the virus is circulating among people or not. Instances such as this show us we cannot be complacent.

The Regional office, together with the WHO country team, has started collaborating with the PNG government and partners to provide maximum efforts in containing the virus.

The Region has continued to significantly reduce the prevalence of hepatitis B among children. As of June, 21 countries and areas of the Region have officially been verified as achieving the goal of less than 1% prevalence among 5-year-old children. The Federated States of Micronesia and Cambodia are the latest countries to achieve this milestone – congratulations, FSM and Cambodia!

In 2017, measles and rubella incidence were at historic lows in the Region despite some challenges. You will all recall there was a

Region-wide resurgence of measles resurgence from 2013 to 2016.

In September 2017, six countries and two areas in the Region were verified as having eliminated measles. Congratulations to Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Hong Kong and Macao (in China), Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand.

The Republic of Korea and New Zealand were also the first countries in the Region to achieve rubella elimination.

On maternal and neonatal tetanus, the Philippines was the latest country to achieve elimination of this disease in November last year.

And as of now, eight of 12 countries in the Region with risk for Japanese Encephalitis transmission have introduced the vaccine into national immunization programmes.

I know this sounds like a lot of facts, figures and statistics. But behind every statistic is a story about children in countries across our Region made safer, and lives saved.

I am very proud of these achievements – as you should be, because you have all played a role in delivering them. I want to sincerely thank all of you for your time, expertise and dedication to this area of work – we couldn’t do it without you.

Of course, as well as celebrating the good news, we also need to discuss how we deal with current and future challenges.

We are all worried about how to sustain funding for immunization as several of our countries transition away from donor support for essential public health functions.

We must continue to work with countries to find ways to increase domestic financing for these services – or we risk many of the gains of the last few decades being lost. Rest assured, this is an area of work WHO takes extremely seriously – and of course, we welcome your input and contributions.

At the same time, we must continue to push to meet the immunization goals we set for ourselves by 2020. With your help and the continued commitment of our Member States, I am sure we can do it.

So let’s start by using this meeting to chart our course to 2020: to review progress, identify any roadblocks to overcome, and agree key actions to achieve our goals.

I understand you will also discuss the future after 2020 – based on progress made and lessons learnt in carrying out the current Regional Framework.

I very much look forward to receiving your recommendations, from what I’m sure will be a very productive few days.

Thank you again for being here, and have a great stay in Manila.

Thank you.