Unprecedented number of children protected against pneumonia with Gavi support

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As the international community marks the seventh World Pneumonia Day, Gavi pneumococcal and pentavalent vaccines are reaching children at an accelerated pace

Mothers attending the launch ceremony of the PCV vaccine in Guinea Bissau, june 2015.

Mothers attending the launch ceremony of the PCV vaccine in Guinea Bissau, june 2015. Credit WHO/2015

Geneva, 12 November 2015 – More of the world’s poorest children than ever before are now receiving protection against the leading causes of bacterial pneumonia, thanks to two key Gavi-supported vaccines. As the international community marks the seventh World Pneumonia Day, the world’s most vulnerable children now have unprecedented and accelerated access to pneumococcal and pentavalent vaccine.

Since 2010 when Gavi first started supporting this vaccine, 54 Gavi-supported countries have now introduced PCV as part of their routine immunisation programmes. Last year, Gavi surpassed its 2015 target of 45 PCV introductions and is now on track to introduce the vaccine in 80% of the 73 Gavi-supported countries by the end of 2016.

Furthermore PCV coverage is increasing steadily. For countries that introduced the vaccine prior to 2014, coverage of the third dose has reached 73%. In all 73 Gavi-supported countries coverage increased from 1% in 2010 to 28% in 2014. It is forecasted that between 2016-2020 Gavi’s pneumococcal vaccines should avert more than 600 000 additional deaths.

Similarly, by the end of 2014 more than 230 million children had also received the pentavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Last year, South Sudan became the 73rd and final Gavi-supported country to introduce the vaccine, since it was first launched in Guyana in 2001.

Gavi purchases pneumococcal vaccines through UNICEF as part of an Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which aims to accelerate the development of new products, bring forward supply availability and increase the introduction of appropriate and affordable vaccines to tackle pneumococcal disease. The governments of Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Russian Federation and Norway, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have committed a total of US$ 1.5 billion to the initiative, which was launched in 2009 and is being implemented by Gavi, The World Bank and UNICEF.

Vaccines are the most effective preventive measures to fight pneumonia. However, they should be integrated with other high impact solutions, such as exclusive breast feeding during the first six months of life; adequate nutrition through age five; and regular hand washing. Access to clean water and sanitation helps prevent children from being exposed to the pathogens that cause pneumonia. Eliminating household air pollution, such as smoke from unsafe cooking stoves, also reduces the risk of children developing severe pneumonia.

Since 2000, the number of pneumonia deaths in under-fives has almost halved, in part because of the scale-up of these interventions and because of better access to health systems and health professionals.

However, pneumonia remains the leading vaccine-preventable killer of children under five-years-old. More than 900,000 children die each year from this preventable and treatable illness, accounting for 16% in the 73 Gavi-supported countries1.

Reducing vaccine-preventable illnesses and deaths relies on immunisation programmes that reach every mother and child, as well as strong health systems and trained health workers.


1 Li Liu, Shefali Oza, Dan Hogan, Yue Chu, Jamie Perin, Jun Zhu, Joy Lawn, Simon Cousens, Colin Mathers, Robert E. Black. 2015. “National, regional and global causes of child mortality in 2000-2015 – reflecting on the MDG 4 and embarking on the SDG 3.2”. Under preparation.

 

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