Children waved flags and paraded in the grounds of the Palais Municipal de Delmas at the launch of Haiti's nationwide vaccination campaign. Photo credit: GAVI/Jonathan Stern/2012.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 21 April 2012 – Just two years after a catastrophic earthquake claimed 230,000 lives and shattered its public health system, Haiti has marked the launch of World Immunization Week by launching a nationwide vaccination campaign.
The campaign will kick-off with measles, rubella and polio, followed by a nationwide rollout of the five-in-one pentavalent vaccine by Haiti’s Ministry of Health, in partnership with GAVI, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and others. Vitamin A supplements and a deworming campaign are also on the agenda.
The vaccination drive represents a remarkable achievement in public health. In January 2010, Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 300 health workers, destroyed the Ministry of Health building and seriously damaged 30 hospitals.
“Vaccination is a great and simple tool to save lives and ensure the well-being of Haitian society,” said Dr. Florence Guillaume, Haiti’s Minister of Public Health and Population, at a special ceremony marking the start of the campaign and the beginning of WHO’s World Immunization Week (WIW).
Watched by health officials and parents waiting for a vaccination session, 200 Haitian children from primary schools and orphanages waved flags and paraded in the grounds of the Palais Municipal de Delmas.
“This is a key turning point for the health of children and families in Haiti, and a tangible symbol of the country’s effort to rebuild and protect its people,” said GAVI Alliance Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten, the first to visit the region as GAVI chair.
The first doses of pentavalent were administered on 16 April in a field visit by US Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius, with the campaign expected to continue in late spring. GAVI expects that approximately 211,000 Haitian children will be immunised with pentavalent vaccine in the first year.
“Pentavalent will become one of the building blocks for strengthening Haiti’s health system – underlining that children everywhere have the same right to life-saving vaccines,” said Høybråten.
Pentavalent protects children against five deadly diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (also known as whooping cough), Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), and hepatitis B (hepB). Every year worldwide, Hib and pertussis kill 199,000 and 195,000 children respectively , making them the third and fourth biggest vaccine-preventable diseases.
The primary causes of the world’s two largest childhood killers, pneumonia and diarrhoea, can be prevented with the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, which GAVI also has approved for rollout in Haiti.
WIW builds on nine years of the ever-growing’ Vaccination Week in the Americas’ regional campaigns which have led to the vaccination of more than 365 million people, led by PAHO/WHO.
This year, more than 180 countries are participating in WIW, including 45 countries and territories in the Americas, where 44 million people are expected to be immunised.
“Vaccination Week in the Americas is an extraordinary achievement that has significantly advanced immunisation in our region,” said PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses. “Now, the whole world is joining the effort to expand and protect the achievements of vaccination.”
GAVI has worked with Haiti for more than 10 years, disbursing more than US$ 1.75 million to help bolster its immunisation services and injection safety, including a US$ 100,000 pentavalent introduction grant to facilitate training and introduction activities.
GAVI has approved US$ 9.29 million in total support, with additional funding recently approved for rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines.
In 2012, GAVI will provide US$ 2.15 million of pentavalent support to Haiti, which will co-finance the vaccine cost with US$ 177,500 in funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).