Investing in vaccines is the right thing and the smart thing to do

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Lynne Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone
UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development

28 April

Measles, tetanus, whooping cough...these childhood vaccines are so readily available in the UK that we take them for granted.

But in many countries, parents and their children are denied access – even though it costs about £13 for a child in Sub-Saharan Africa to be immunised with pentavalent, pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines.

Immunisation saves as many as three million lives every year. Yet, even in 2014, over 22 million children do not receive a full course of even the most basic vaccines. 1.5 million children under the age of five die from vaccine preventable diseases, mostly in developing countries.

World Immunization Week 2014 once again reminded us all how effective vaccines can be. It encouraged us to take action to help ensure everybody gets the life-saving vaccinations they need.

Vaccines not only prevent death they also help stop children catching diseases such as polio and rubella that can lead to life-long disabilities such as paralysis, deafness, blindness and learning disability.

This protection is vital as people with disabilities are some of the poorest and most marginalised in the world - part of an unseen great neglect, facing huge discrimination, including unequal access to education, employment, healthcare, social support and the justice system.

Investing in immunisation is the right thing to do. But it is also the smart thing to do: it gives people the chance to live productive lives so they can help pull themselves out of poverty. The economic benefits are huge with the benefit of a single vaccination outweighing the cost by twenty times.

In the UK, the Coalition Government’s vision is for all children everywhere to be fully vaccinated, ensuring that even the poorest, hardest to reach children receive the essentials. The UK is the largest donor to the GAVI Alliance which is leading the way in getting more people vaccinated in the world’s poorest countries, saving lives and preventing disability.

Since becoming Minister for International Development, I’ve travelled to numerous developing countries and seen first-hand just how essential vaccines programmes are to saving children’s lives - protecting them against some of the world’s deadliest diseases.

In 2011, the Government committed to immunise over 80 million children against preventable diseases by 2015 through the GAVI Alliance - saving one child’s life every two minutes. I am pleased to say that so far we are on track to meet this commitment. And I believe UK taxpayers can be incredibly proud of this important work they’re funding.


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