30 September 2011
More children in the developing world will soon receive protection from the world’s most widespread life-threatening diseases, an alliance devoted to increasing immunization around the world announced September 27.
The GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) said the new vaccination campaign will provide funding to pay for vaccines in dozens more countries where they are not currently available. The vaccines will protect the children receiving them from two of the diseases with the highest fatality numbers in the developing world.
“These new vaccines will prevent millions of children from dying of pneumonia and diarrhea, the biggest killers of children under 5,” said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, one of the many partners in the GAVI Alliance.
Sixteen more countries will receive support for rotavirus vaccines, which have proven to be highly effective at reducing severe and fatal diarrhea. Eighteen more countries will be able to introduce pneumococcal vaccines, according to the GAVI Alliance press release. Pneumococcal disease causes pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis, which kill half a million children each year.
IN 2000, GAVI began its campaign to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunization in the world’s poorest countries. Even though broad vaccination campaigns have proven themselves to be unquestionably successful at lowering death rates among children, 1.7 million children still die from a vaccine-preventable disease because they lack access to vaccines.
GAVI has attracted support and funding from the world’s most prominent health organizations, including the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It also counts many governments — including the United States — as members of the alliance.
“Thanks to our donors and partners,” said GAVI chief executive officer, Dr. Seth Berkley, “the GAVI Alliance is now delivering on its promise to protect more children across the developing world against rotavirus, pneumococcal disease and other life-threatening yet preventable diseases.”
By 2015, GAVI and its partners plan to support more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries in providing rotavirus vaccines and immunizing more than 50 million children.
“The high number of approved applications for funding for new vaccines in this latest round is yet another milestone in the fight to prevent child deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. “As demand for new vaccines increases further, WHO will continue providing critical support to countries for decisionmaking on new vaccines, surveillance, and immunization program planning, training, and evaluation.”
On the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York September 21, Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Andrew Mitchell, U.K. secretary of state for international development, highlighted GAVI as a model global development partnership that is significantly helping advance the Millennium Development Goals.
“To meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, we must work more effectively and efficiently to deliver meaningful results for the people we serve and GAVI is a good example of success,” said Shah. “GAVI and immunization represent outstanding value for our money. Investments in immunization yield a rate of return that is higher than nearly any other development intervention,” he added.
Since the alliance began its work, 288 million children in the world’s poorest countries received immunization when they would not have otherwise. This ongoing effort has averted more than 5 million premature deaths, GAVI estimates, but also given millions of children the chance to grow up with better chances of maintaining good health.