Geneva, 12 November 2021 – India has completed the national introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) into its routine immunisation programme following the 2021-22 budget announcement by the Hon. Finance Minister of the country. This major milestone made possible through the efforts of the Government of India, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and in-country partners, will ensure access to the vaccine for over 90% of children born in India every year.
Introducing PCVs is one of the safest and most effective ways to prevent pneumonia, which kills more children than any other infectious disease every year. Globally, 57% of all child pneumonia deaths occur in countries where PCV coverage is below 60% with children in lower-income countries bearing the greatest burden. It is critical therefore for countries to increase access to and coverage of PCV, in order to help save millions of lives.
“India is proud to have completed the national introduction of the PCV, which will reduce child mortality by approximately 60% in the country. We extend gratitude to all our partners and to the health workers involved for their commitment toward safeguarding our children’s’ futures,” said Mr. Vikas Sheel, Additional Secretary & Mission Director (National Health Mission).
India began the phased roll-out of PCV with support from Gavi in 2017. In 2021, the Vaccine Alliance provided new funding to procure more than 9 million PCV doses, which supported an additional expansion to 14 states. A new request from the Government of India in 2021 to use the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) allowed the procurement of PCV for more than 800,000 additional children. These doses were procured through Gavi’s Advance Market Commitment (AMC) for pneumococcal vaccines, which reached its conclusion on 31 December 2020, after a decade of unprecedented progress in pneumococcal disease prevention.
“Pneumonia is the leading vaccine-preventable cause of death among young children worldwide, taking 800,000 lives every year. The nationwide introduction of PCV in India is a major milestone and will enable millions of children across the country to be protected from this life-threatening illness,” said Anuradha Gupta, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The national scale-up of PCV falls under India’s Universal Immunization Programme, which seeks to reduce childhood and infant mortality through the introduction of life-saving vaccines. It builds on the progress achieved in 2020, when coverage of the vaccine rose from 15% to 21% in India, demonstrating the country’s resilience and efforts to shelter immunisation programmes from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To date, more than 60 of 73 countries eligible for Gavi support have introduced PCV, protecting over 255 million children. Further introductions are planned for 2022.