A woman and her child waits alongside many other parents for their children to receive the pneumococcal vaccine for the first time in Ethiopia. Source: Daniel Thornton/GAVI/2011.
Addis Abbaba, 15 October 2011 – Millions of Ethiopian children will begin to receive
protection from pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis this weekend when Ethiopia
joins a growing list of developing nations to introduce vaccines against
Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of pneumonia, the
biggest infectious killer of children under five in Ethiopia and around the
world. Globally, pneumonia is responsible for 4,300 child deaths every day or
one every 20 seconds. Children with HIV/AIDS are up to 40 times more likely to
contract pneumococcal disease than HIV-negative children.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health will begin the largest
introduction of pneumococcal vaccines in a developing country to date, as part
of its national immunisation programme. This is part of an ambitious global rollout plan funded by the GAVI Alliance which aims to reach more than 40
countries and immunise 90 million children against pneumococcal disease by
2015. This will avert approximately 700,000 deaths by 2015 and up to seven
million deaths by 2030 (1).
“In Ethiopia under 5 mortality had declined dramatically in the
past 5 years. One of the major contributors to child death is pneumonia and the
introduction of pneumococcal vaccine will help us cut child death further and
achieve MDG 4 by 2015,” said Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, Dr Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus. “This introduction represents a big step forward for our nation
and I would like to express my sincere appreciation of GAVI’s continued
In Ethiopia under 5 mortality had declined dramatically in the past 5 years. One of the major contributors to child death is pneumonia and the introduction of pneumococcal vaccine will help us cut child death further and achieve MDG 4 by 2015.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s Minister of Health
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is a highly complex and
sophisticated vaccine that in the past might otherwise have taken up to 15
years to be accessible to children in the world’s poorest countries. Thanks to
the work of the GAVI Alliance, its donors and partners, these children will not
have to wait.
“No child should have to die of a disease that we can prevent with
vaccines. The introduction of these pneumococcal vaccines is extremely
significant because it means children in Ethiopia and other developing nations
are getting access to the best technology available at the same time as
children in richer countries,” said Seth Berkley MD, GAVI’s Chief Executive
“Vaccines are one of the most powerful weapons we have to prevent
diseases such as pneumococcal disease, one of the leading killers of children,”
said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. “With the introduction of
the vaccine against pneumococcal disease to Ethiopia and other countries that
would not have been able to afford them previously, we hope to build on the
success we have seen in the global fight against other vaccine-preventable
In 2007, WHO recommended the introduction of pneumococcal vaccines
into all national immunisation programmes, particularly in countries with high
"With increasing number of countries introducing the
new-generation pneumococcal vaccine, its impact on lives saved by preventing
the most common cause of pneumonia deaths will be significant", said Dr
Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of the Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals Department
at WHO. "WHO is committed to supporting countries in making evidence-based
decisions and scaling up their immunization programmes to ensure that all
children have access to this high impact vaccine".
In addition, the national scale-up of community-based treatment of
pneumonia with oral antibiotics by health extension workers will also help
further reduce child mortality significantly in Ethiopia. A functional cold
chain, sustainable financing, trained health workers and a reliable information
system are some of the critical elements for a successful EPI programme
(Expanded Programme on Immunisation) and the introduction of new vaccines
presents a good opportunity to improve the quality of routine EPI programmes.
To date, 15 countries have started the introduction of the latest
generation pneumococcal vaccines as part of their national immunisation
programmes. Nicaragua, Kenya, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Honduras, Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Mali, Central African Republic, Gambia, Benin, Cameroon,
Rwanda, and Burundi are the countries that introduced the pneumococcal vaccine
in recent months with GAVI support.
The roll-out of the pneumococcal vaccines in developing countries,
which began in Nicaragua in December 2010, has been made possible through an
innovative finance mechanism pioneered by GAVI called the Advance MarketCommitment (AMC).
With US$ 1.5 billion from Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the
Russian Federation, Norway, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a
commitment of US$ 1.3 billion from GAVI, the AMC allowed the acceleration of
production capacity by the manufacturers who currently produce the pneumococcal
Editor’s note: Ethiopia, which has experienced a 28 per cent reduction in under 5
mortality between 2005 and 2011, is also working with GAVI Alliance partners
UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) to further strengthen efforts to
control measles outbreaks in drought-affected areas and refugee camps by
providing additional vaccines to Somalis left homeless from drought and
conflict in their own country, as well as over 100 districts that are affected
The government and its partners are ramping up efforts to provide
measles vaccines to all Somali children between the ages of 6 months and 14
years in refugee camps, along with nearly 7 million children in the
drought-affected areas of Ethiopia.
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and
prior to the start of widespread vaccination in 1980 it caused an estimated 2.6
million deaths each year. The disease remains one of the leading causes of
death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and
effective vaccine. In 2008, an estimated 164,000 people died from measles,
mostly children under the age of five.
The severe humanitarian crisis caused by widespread drought in the
Horn of Africa and on-going conflict in Somalia requires an integrated
humanitarian response that includes immunisation and other health
interventions, nutrition, clean water supply, hygiene, child protection, and
education for refugees and drought affected populations.
Despite the current humanitarian situation, the addition of
pneumococcal vaccines in Ethiopia’s routine immunisation programme illustrates
the country’s commitment to reduce the number of children who die from
pneumonia every year.