Next five years vital for childhood immunisation - Gavi CEO

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Once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve vaccine access and coverage in developing countries

Geneva, 24 April 2015 – Developing countries have a unique opportunity over the next five years to build and strengthen immunisation programmes that will protect generations of children, Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said today.

Speaking at the start of World Immunization Week, Dr Berkley highlighted the opportunity to not only immunise hundreds of millions of children against life-threatening diseases but also to ensure that developing countries across Africa and Asia have the right infrastructure in place to keep on delivering vaccines and other vital health interventions.

“Immunisation touches more lives than practically any other health intervention on the planet,” said Dr Berkley. “As we look ahead to 2020 we must ensure that the systems being built in developing countries will be there for the long term and will continue to save lives and protect health for generations to come.”

During World Immunization Week, the Solomon Islands will begin protecting girls against cervical cancer through a human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) demonstration project with Gavi support while the Democratic Republic of Congo will begin protecting its children with the inactivated polio vaccine.

“New vaccines bring new protection to children in the world’s poorest countries, many of whom do not have access to effective treatment when they fall ill,” added Dr Berkley. “By introducing these vaccines, these countries are taking firm action to ensure their children are protected against major killer diseases and have the opportunity to live long and productive lives.”

Immunisation touches more lives than practically any other health intervention on the planet 

Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Although significant global progress has been made on immunisation, as the second half of the Decade of Vaccines begins there are still a number of areas requiring action, as highlighted by the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) report on the Global Vaccines Action Plan.

As one of the GVAP partners, Gavi is supporting the plan in a number of ways including supporting countries to introduce new and underutilised vaccines. All 73 Gavi-supported countries are now immunising their children with the five-in-one pentavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis as well as hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b.

Additionally, Gavi now supports more than 50 developing countries to protect their children against the leading cause of pneumonia with the pneumococcal vaccine and more than 30 countries to protect their children against a major cause of severe diarrhoea with the rotavirus vaccine.

Gavi also plans to support the immunisation of 30 million girls in 40 developing countries against cervical cancer by 2020 with the HPV vaccine. An estimated 266,000 women die every year from cervical cancer, of which more than 85% live in low-income countries, according to statistics published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

Since 2000, Gavi has supported developing countries to immunise more than half a billion children, saving approximately seven million lives. Following a successful Pledging Conference in Berlin, where donors pledged more than US$ 7.5 billion towards Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance aims to support the immunisation of an additional 300 million children between 2016 and 2020, which will lead to a further five to six million lives being saved.

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