The GAVI Alliance today announced it will provide funding for 16 more developing countries to introduce rotavirus vaccines and 18 more countries to introduce pneumococcal vaccines -- a major step towards protecting children against severe diarrhoea and pneumonia -- the two leading child killers.
The roll out of rotavirus vaccines across the African continent has already begun in Sudan, and today’s announcement confirms funding for 12 more African countries to follow suit.
Delivering on its promise
“Thanks to our donors and partners, 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,” said GAVI CEO Seth Berkley M.D..
“The death toll of rotavirus and pneumococcal infections in Africa is particularly devastating, and this is where these vaccines will make the most significant impact, not only in lives saved, but also in terms of healthy lives lived,” he added.
“Immunisation enables good health and healthy people are more productive and ultimately fuel economic growth.”
Increased country demand
An ever-increasing number of countries have applied for vaccine funding and yesterday (Monday) GAVI’sExecutive Committee approved applications from 37 countries – 16 for rotavirus vaccines, 18 for pneumococcal vaccines, five for pentavalent vaccine, and 12 for other types of vaccines (see annex for detailed list of approved countries – some countries have been approved for more than one vaccine). Out of the 37 countries, 24 are in Africa.
Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children under five years of age, killing more than half a million children each year worldwide and causing illness in several million more. Nearly 50% of all rotavirus deaths occur in Africa, where access to treatment for severe rotavirus diarrhoea is limited or unavailable.
Pneumococcal disease causes pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis and also takes the lives of more than half a million children each year worldwide, the vast majority of them in Africa and Asia.
The funding of 18 more countries (including 12 in Africa) to introduce pneumococcal vaccines will take the total to 37 since the roll out of pneumococcal vaccines in GAVI-supported countries began in December 2010 inNicaragua.
By 2015, GAVI and its partners plan to support more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries to rollout rotavirus vaccines and immunise more than 50 million children. In addition to Sudan, Nicaragua, Bolivia,Guyana, and Honduras have already introduced rotavirus vaccines with GAVI’s support.
"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 decision-making on new vaccines, surveillance, and immunization programme planning, training, and evaluation."
Reaching children at greatest risk
”These new vaccines will prevent millions of children from dying of pneumonia and diarrhoea, the biggest killers of children under five,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
“In rolling out these vaccines, we need to focus especially on reaching the children at greatest risk, for it is among the most vulnerable that these vaccines can make the biggest difference, especially if they are combined with better nutrition, sanitation and other critical interventions.”
Healthy start to life
“Vaccines prevent disease and give children a healthy start to life – they represent one of the best investments in global health,” said Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, Director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“We must work together to ensure that all children have access to the right set of vaccines, in rich and poor countries alike.”
Rotavirus vaccines have proven to be highly effective at reducing severe and fatal diarrhoea and have saved thousands of children’s lives. Recent studies show the swift and significant impact of rotavirus vaccines to reduce child deaths and improve children’s health.
For example, prior to the introduction of the vaccines in Mexico in 2006, 50% of deaths due to childhood diarrhoea were caused by rotavirus. The country has since seen a remarkable 46% reduction in the number of children under age five dying from diarrhoea.
GAVI and its partners also plan to support more than 40 countries to introduce pneumococcal vaccines and immunise more than 90 million children against pneumococcal disease by 2015.