Senegalese children getting a healthy start in life

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One year on from the pneumococcal vaccine launch Senegal introduces the rotavirus vaccine, helping counter the deadly toll of pneumonia and diarrhoea

Senegal rotavirus launch PM Harper

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper vaccinates a child against rotavirus during the national launch of the vaccine. Credit: Gavi/2014/Pascal Barollier.

Dakar, 28 November 2014 - With Friday’s introduction of the rotavirus vaccine into the national immunisation programme, half-a-million children born every year in Senegal have a fighting chance of surviving past the age of five.

Rotavirus, the most common cause of severe and fatal diarrhoea, claims the lives of around 1,900 Senegalese children aged under five annually. Together with pneumococcal disease, it is the primary child killer .

Critical need

Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper oversaw the official launch at the Philippe Manguilen Senghor Health Clinic in Dakar, Senegal, which was attended by hundreds of families.

Addressing the launch ceremony, Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said: “Every day in Senegal five children under the age of five die from severe rotavirus infection. Today is therefore an important day for all Senegalese children since the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine will save hundreds of lives each year. Few things in the world have a greater impact on public health than vaccines.”

Following the official launch, the rotavirus vaccine will be administered alongside the five-in-one pentavalant vaccine, ensuring a coverage rate of over 90%, according to Laylee Moshiri, UNICEF Representative in Senegal.

Partnership

Since 2001, Senegal has partnered with Gavi to improve child health through investments in vaccination and its health system. Thanks to increased investment from the Government in both its health system and childhood vaccinations, most children can now benefit from free vaccinations against 12 preventable diseases.

“Vaccinating our children against rotavirus and integrating these vaccines into appropriate programmes against diarrhoeal diseases will help support our efforts to reduce infant mortality,” said Prof. Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Senegalese Minister of Health and Social Action and a member of the Gavi Board.

Alongside the introduction of rotavirus vaccine, Senegal has also introduced a pilot project for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine; HPV is responsible for around 70% of all cervical cancer cases.

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