Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine will reduce incidence of pneumonia, which kills more children globally than any other disease
Port-au-Prince, 30 October 2018 - The government of Haiti formally introduced yesterday pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) into its routine immunisation programme, which will protect hundreds of thousands of Haitian children against pneumococcal disease, the leading cause of pneumonia.
“I know how concerned you all are about the health of the Haitian population," said Dr Marie Greta Roy Clement, Minister of Public Health and Population of Haiti, speaking at the event. "I call on all health professionals working in a public section, a commune, a district, a department, a country to make sure that no child is left behind, and that they are all vaccinated. Educate parents and the people tirelessly about the benefits of immunisation; inform them about the vaccination schedule; look for the unvaccinated; make sure there is no drop-off. In short, protect all children with vaccines."
I call on all health professionals working in a public section, a commune, a district, a department, a country to make sure that no child is left behind, and that they are all vaccinated.
Dr Marie Greta Roy Clement, Minister of Public Health and Population of Haiti
With this introduction, as many as 270,000 Haitian children will routinely receive PCV every year – along with pentavalent and rotavirus vaccines which Haiti introduced with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in 2012 and 2014. Pentavalent vaccine protects children against five deadly diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), Haemophilus influenzae type B and hepatitis B. Rotavirus vaccine is the most effective way to prevent severe rotavirus disease which is the leading cause of diarrhoea, one of the biggest killers of children under age five.
“This is an important moment for the future of health in Haiti,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “With access to PCV and, for several years, rotavirus and pentavalent vaccines, Haitian children will now be protected against the deadliest diseases for those under five. This will dramatically expand the availability of lifesaving protection for Haiti’s children, especially those in remote areas and urban slums who have been historically hardest to reach.”
Nearly three quarters of Gavi’s funding for Haiti has helped the country acquire vaccines at prices it can afford while the government of Haiti has made strong efforts to increase its co-financing share.
“We commend the leadership of the government of Haiti for doing their part to finance these vaccines and look forward to working together to ensure all children in Haiti have access to these lifesavers,” said Dr Berkley.
Much of the remainder of Gavi’s support has gone to strengthening Haiti’s health care infrastructure. Earlier introductions of the pentavalent and rotavirus vaccines, and the administration of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in 2016, provided crucial insight into the strengthening of future immunisation programmes like PCV.
All Gavi-funded programmes are implemented by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population with technical support (such as health worker training and logistical planning) from Vaccine Alliance partners Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and UNICEF.
Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae that causes several serious illnesses, including, bacterial meningitis, pneumonia, otitis media or an inner ear infection, bacteremia, as well as sinus infections. Nearly one million children, more than 80% of which are under two years old, die from pneumonia every year. PCV, Hib and measles vaccines are some of the most effective ways to prevent the disease.
PCV is made available to Gavi-supported countries thanks to the 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 are the main funders of this innovative mechanism. By the end of 2017, 58 Gavi-supported countries had immunised more than 143 million children against pneumococcal disease with support from the Vaccine Alliance.
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 also helps prevent children from being exposed to the pathogens that cause pneumonia.