Geneva, 1 August 2008 - For the first time in its history, the Solomon Islands began vaccinating its children today against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and four other common diseases through the use of a 5-1 vaccine purchased with funding from the GAVI Alliance.
Hib, a bacterium that can cause meningitis and pneumonia, is one of the biggest killers of young children in the developing world. Each year, Hib is estimated to be responsible globally for some three million serious illnesses and an estimated 400,000 deaths, the majority of them among children.
The Hib vaccine will be administered through a one shot vaccine that also includes antigens against four other diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and hepatitis B.
At an official ceremony taking place in the capital Honiara, the honorable Mr. Johnson Koli, Minister of Health and Medical Services of the Solomon Islands oversaw the first administration of the vaccine among a group of children.
The GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) is a public-private partnership of major stakeholders in immunisation including WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, developing country and donor governments, the vaccine industry, research and technical agencies, civil society, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization committed US$465,000 for the introduction of the vaccine.
"Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Solomon Islands' Ministry of Health, the WHO, UNICEF and other partners, this life-saving vaccine will provide more protection to children in the country, with fewer injections and with fewer visits to the health clinic," said Jeffrey Rowland of the GAVI Alliance.
Since 2000, GAVI Alliance has provided funding support and supplies for Hib vaccine under the Pentavalent form to the poorest countries in the world.
"The introduction of Hib vaccine has now completely changed the epidemiology of bacterial meningitis in countries where introduced. For example, the GAVI-supported vaccine has allowed Uganda to eliminate meningitis due to Hib as a public health problem," added Jeffrey Rowland.
"The introduction of this Pentavalent vaccine marks a milestone in the further development of the national immunisation programme in the Solomon Islands, and provides a significant hope for all families in the country" said Dr. William Adu-Krow, WHO Country Liaison Officer.