Geneva, 13 May 2017 – For the first time, millions of children in India will receive protection for free against the leading cause of pneumonia – which kills more children under the age of five than any other infectious disease in the world – thanks to the launch of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).
PCV is being introduced to India’s Universal Immunization Program (UIP) with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a move that will help to reduce the number of under-five pneumonia deaths in India, the highest in the world.
Currently, almost 200,000 children under five die from pneumonia in India each year. Until now PCV, a relatively new vaccine, has only been made available in the private market, putting it beyond the reach of most of the population. With this phased introduction, nearly 2.1 million children in Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh will be vaccinated with PCV. This coverage will be expanded across the entire country in the coming years.
“This is a huge milestone because it means that, for the first time, India’s most vulnerable children will be protected against one of India’s most deadly diseases," said Gavi CEO Seth Berkley. “India is not only the largest Gavi-supported country, but it also has the single largest number of under-immunised children in the world. This vaccine will save many lives.”
Pneumonia kills more than 900,000 children in the world every year, mostly in low-income countries. This represents roughly a third of all vaccine preventable deaths. PCV can prevent many of these by protecting children from strains of the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, the leading cause of pneumonia.
This latest vaccine introduction is part of a massive effort to expand the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). PCV is one of three new vaccines introduced in the past year to fight the leading killers of children – pneumonia and diarrhoea – as well as rubella.
So far, a total of nine states have introduced a new vaccine against rotavirus, the leading cause of severe diarrhoea. In India it is estimated that the rotavirus vaccine could prevent up to 48,000 deaths each year. In February, India also launched the world’s largest, most ambitious vaccination campaign against measles and rubella. Over the next two years, India is aiming to vaccinate 410 million children with a single vaccine against the two diseases.
“No child should die in the country from Vaccine Preventable Diseases. We stand committed to reducing child deaths and providing a healthier future to our children,” said Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance provides catalytic support to India's immunisation programme and will provide up to US$ 500 million between 2016 and 2021 to support India’s immunisation programme. Vaccine Alliance partners, including WHO and UNICEF also continue to work closely with the Government to help modernise and improve India's immunisation services.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is funded by governments (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the State of Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States), the European Commission, Alwaleed Philanthropies, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as private and corporate partners (Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Comic Relief, the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW), the Gulf Youth Alliance, JP Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Majid Al Futtaim, Phillips, UPS and Vodafone.
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