Geneva, 26 November 2008 - Responding to increased demand by poor countries to immunise children under five, the GAVI Alliance has committed to fund an additional US$ 134 million in new and continued programmes yesterday for vaccines against rotavirus, pneumococcal disease and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
The programmes will support 11 countries and provide vaccines to an estimated 6.6 million children.
All three diseases are major childhood killers. Collectively, they claim the lives of approximately two million children each year.
"The demand by countries to immunise their children has been phenomenal," said GAVI Executive Secretary Julian Lob-Levyt. "We've listened to what countries need and have responded. As they continue to ramp up efforts against childhood killers, they are now asking for support against diseases like cervical cancer and Japanese encephalitis. We must not let them down."
Yesterday's decision follows an October board meeting at which the Alliance committed to seek the required US$ 3 billion necessary to continue existing programmes and expand its portfolio of offerings through 2015.
Dr. Lob-Levyt encouraged donors "not flinch nor be complacent" despite the current economic challenge. "We must seize this opportunity and remain committed to immunisation and the impact we can make on the Millennium Development Goals, not only for child health but for gender and poverty reduction too. Sustainable health interventions require long-term, reliable funding."
Armenia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, and Sao Tome will receive support to immunise approximately 2.9 million children with the life-saving Hib vaccine. It will be administered through three shots of a pentavalent vaccine that also includes antigens against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and hepatitis B.
Nicaragua will receive support to administer rotavirus vaccine to approximately 334,600 children and Cameroon, Congo, and Yemen were approved for funding to administer pneumococcal vaccine to approximately 2.6 million children beginning in 2010.
More than 800,000 children in Rwanda and Gambia are also expected to be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease thanks to an approved donation from Wyeth of 3.1 million doses of the vaccine Prevenar.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia and meningitis, is the number one vaccine-preventable cause of death in children under five years of age worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that up to one million children under five die each year due to pneumococcal diseases. The vast majority of deaths occur in developing countries.
"Bringing lifesaving vaccines to children throughout the world is central to Wyeth's mission," said Jim Connolly, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Wyeth Vaccines. "As a result of this donation to GAVI, we are helping protect poor children in Rwanda and Gambia from the potentially devastating consequences."
The considerable uptake by recipient countries of vaccines already offered by GAVI and an overwhelming demand for new ones prompted the expansion of the vaccine portfolio. Since GAVI was launched in 2000, the number of poor countries that have accessed the Alliance's life-saving support has skyrocketed. Requests from countries for hepatitis B vaccine, for example, have risen from nearly zero to more than 60 countries in just eight years. A recent survey indicated that 60 countries would also seek support to introduce a vaccine against cervical cancer.