Geneva, 15 November 2006- The GAVI Alliance is announcing today that the European Commission is committing new financing to accelerate access to new and underused vaccines in three low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The European Parliament set aside a €10 million appropriation for the GAVI Alliance programmes through a preparatory action for Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda to protect their children's health through a new technology "five in one" vaccine. This pentavalent vaccine protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib) in a single shot, greatly simplifying vaccination delivery.
Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda are currently among the 60 priority countries needing to accelerate efforts to reduce child mortality by the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target. Since 1990, under five mortality rates have increased in Rwanda, remained unchanged in Burundi and declined by a mere 1 % in Uganda. Dramatic investments are needed to scale up access and accelerate progress.
"Equal access to new technologies and global public goods, such as vaccines, must be dramatically increased if we are to achieve the MDG target of reducing child mortality. The European Commission's partnership with the GAVI Fund is a good example of how such technologies can make real advances in the world's poorest countries." said Dr. Lieve Fransen, Head of Unit for Human and Social Development at the European Commission.
"We are grateful for the European Commission's commitment to help reach the MDG 4 goal for child survival. New technologies are key to scale up access to new generation vaccines in the world's poorest countries." noted Dr Julian Lob-Levyt, Executive Secretary of the GAVI Alliance.
"Approximately 25% of MDG4 can be achieved through immunisation and pentavalent vaccine has the potential to make a significant contribution towards this goal," he added.
Efforts to accelerate immunisation coverage of new and underused vaccines are pivotal to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on child health (MDG4), which calls for reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015. Since 2001, the GAVI Alliance has provided new and under-used vaccines against deadly diseases such as hepatitis B and yellow fever for more than 115 million children. This number is expected to climb to 225 million by 2008, according to the World Health Organization.
"Key to this success has been GAVI's approach," said Lob-Levyt. "It rewards results, but also enables partner nations to develop their own long term plans for reaching their immunisation goals." In order to address broader health issues, the GAVI Alliance is opening a new Health System Strengthening window, aiming at supporting governments in their efforts to address weaknesses and improve the capacity of health systems in order to increase and sustain high immunisation coverage levels.
The increased amounts of funding devoted to immunisation and health systems as a whole are promising, but nevertheless the need remains pressing; of the more than 10 million children who die before reaching their fifth birthday every year, 2.5 million die from diseases that could be prevented with currently available or new vaccines. New sources of funding are crucial to continue reducing the death toll and provide equitable access to life-saving health care interventions to all children around the world.
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The GAVI Alliance
An alliance of all the major stakeholders in immunisation, the GAVI Alliance includes among its partners developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, NGOs, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is estimated that more than 1.7 million early deaths will have been prevented as a result of support by GAVI up to the end of 2005.
GAVI's efforts are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on child health, which calls for reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015. Of the more than 10 million children who die before reaching their fifth birthday every year, 2.5 million die from diseases that could be prevented with currently available or new vaccines.