Health & Medical Public Health

Influenza Vaccines and Antiviral Drug Availablity in Africa

Influenza Vaccines and Antiviral Drug Availablity in Africa


Influenza is an important contributor to morbidity and mortality in Africa. Among 15 countries of the African Network for Influenza Surveillance and Epidemiology (ANISE), 10% and 22% of inpatient and outpatient respiratory cases, respectively, tested positive for influenza between 2006–2010. For many years, influenza epidemiology has been described in countries with temperate climates like South Africa and Morocco but there are now data that comprehensively describe influenza viruses in tropical countries like Kenya and Zambia. In Africa, influenza causes severe illness and deaths in both temperate and tropical settings.

Populations in low and middle income countries like many of those in Africa are more vulnerable to influenza-related complications because of the high prevalence of underlying medical conditions and limited access to health care. For example, outbreaks of influenza A(H3N2), which circulates widely across the globe, have caused unusually high case fatality ratios in Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition, the elderly in South Africa are four times more likely to die from an influenza infection than their counterparts in the United States. The high prevalence of comorbidities including human immunodeficiency virus and tuberculosis contribute to increased influenza-associated mortality in Africa.

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza illness and antiviral drugs help treat viral infection. Vaccines and antiviral drugs are important particularly among high risk groups such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly and persons with underlying medical conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, reports that none of the countries in the African Region have capacity to produce seasonal influenza vaccines and that only 2 of the 54 countries on the continent have access to them. A separate report from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers states that countries in Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia combined receive only 1% to 4% of the global seasonal influenza vaccine supply each year. With growing data on the burden of influenza across the African continent, many countries are considering introducing or expanding strategies to prevent and manage influenza infection. We conducted this study to gather more data on the availability of influenza vaccines and antiviral drugs in Africa as well as related national policies and guidelines.

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