UNICEF's reports on the 15th rollout of pneumococcal vaccine in sub-Saharan Africa
The Republic of Congo's Expanded Programme on Immunisation expects to immunise more than 164,282 children between the ages of 2 and 11 months with pneumococcal vaccine by the end of 2012. Copyright: UNICEF/2012/Baudouin MOUANDA
Brazzaville, 11 October 2012 - The Republic of Congo has taken a big step today in improving child health by introducing the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects children against one of the leading causes of pneumonia.
The announcement was made at an official ceremony at the Marian Ngoubai Health Centre in Brazzaville, at which both Congo’s First Lady, Mrs Antoinette Sassou Nguesso, and the Minister of Health and Population François Ibovi vaccinated a child, watched by some 200 Congolese mothers.
"During this Year of Health, declared by His Excellency the President of the Republic, the introduction of this new vaccine is proven evidence of the Government’s engagement to ensure the well-being of all population and in particular of children, who represent the future of the Country, for a strong and healthy Congo’’ stated Mr.Ibovi.
15th to introduce pneumococcal
By the end of 2012, Congo's Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) expects to immunise more than 164,282 children between the ages of 2 and 11 months; with pneumonia listed as the second cause of death in children under age five, after malaria, the new vaccine will significantly reduce child mortality.
Congo is the 15th Sub-Saharan African country to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine into its EPI.
In this push to reduce infant mortality, the Government of Congo is supported by several partners, including UNICEF, WHO and the GAVI Alliance. Their backing has facilitated the training of programme vaccination managers and complementary health operators, who face the day to day challenges of introducing a new vaccine. Several GAVI donors also supported the Congolese Government by helping to finance the pneumococcal vaccine.
Advance Market Commitment
it is essential that each parent and community make sure that all children between the age of two and 11 months are vaccinated
Marianne Flach, UNICEF Congo's representative
The pneumococcal vaccine is available in Congo thanks to GAVI’s innovative Advance Market Commitment (AMC). The AMC provides incentives for manufacturers to produce large quantities of pneumococcal vaccine which can then reach developing countries up to a decade earlier than the historical average.
The AMC is funded by Canada, Italy, Norway, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
UNICEF has contributed more than US$ 1 million to the rehabilitation of Congo's cold chain in Congo to improve both storage and preservation of vaccines.
"Thanks to this new vaccine, Congo can save the lives of an important number of babies that each year die because of diseases caused by pneumococcal bacteria," said UNICEF Congo's representative, Ms Marianne Flach, who was attending the launch ceremony on behalf of the United Nations System and GAVI.
Families and communities
UNICEF’s support to the Congolese Government also includes communication and social mobilisation, which aims to engage families and communities in correctly vaccinating their children.
According to Ms. Flach: “it is essential that each parent and community make sure that all children between the age of two and 11 months are vaccinated. Beyond the correct vaccination, families should apply the essential practices of exclusive maternal breast-feeding, handwashing with clean water and soap, environmental sanitation, Vitamin A supplements administration, water and drinks’ treatment to prevent diseases such as pneumonia”.
Ms. Flach emphasised the critical role of parents both in recognizing pneumonia in its early stages and immediately taking the infected child to a local health centre for appropriate care.
Congo’s engagement in public health has been steadily improving over the past decade. The Government has been purchasing routine vaccines without GAVI support since 2004. Since 2007, Congo has also been drawing on its own health budget to fully finance expenses such as immunisation material.
The country also benefits from the support of several partners to elaborate strategic documents, rehabilitate and maintain its cold chain as well as support the purchase of immunisation infrastructure.
In 2014, Congo plans to introduce the rotavirus vaccine to combat diarrhoeal diseases, another principle cause of infant mortality both across Congo and worldwide.
This remarkable Government action, supported by partners, is based on free and equitable access to the vaccine and will help save thousands of children's lives in Congo. It will also ensure that children live a healthier life, have the opportunity to learn, play, read and write and grow up in a safe environment.