Sixteen more developing nations will receive funding to protect their children from rotavirus and pneumococcal infections, major causes of childhood deaths globally from severe diarrhea and pneumonia, the GAVI Alliance announced today. Pneumonia and diarrhea are the two leading causes of childhood deaths in developing nations.
The GAVI Alliance, formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization is a health partnership consisting of public bodies and private organizations. It is committed to saving children's lives and protecting global public health by promoting access to immunization in poor nations. Examples of active members include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, virtually all developed nation's governments, WHO (World Health Organization), the World Bank, and UNICEF.
Rotavirus vaccines are already being rolled out in the Sudan. The Alliance adds that 12 more African countries will receive funding.
GAVI CEO Seth Berkley M.D., said:
"Thanks to our donors and partners, the GAVI Alliance is now delivering on its promise to protect more children across the developing world against rotavirus, pneumococcal disease and other life-threatening yet preventable diseases.
"The death toll of rotavirus and pneumococcal infections in Africa is particularly devastating, and this is where these vaccines will make the most significant impact, not only in lives saved, but also in terms of healthy lives lived. Immunisation enables good health and healthy people are more productive and ultimately fuel economic growth."
GAVI's Executive Committee says it has approved applications for funding from 37 nations - sixteen of them for rotavirus vaccines, 18 for pneumococcal vaccines, 5 for pentavalent* vaccines, plus another 12 for other vaccines.
* A pentavalent vaccine - contains five antigens, which in GAVI's case means antigens against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Hib disease (DTP-Hep B-Hib vaccine).
24 out of the 37 nations are in the African continent.
RotavirusRotavirus is the major cause of severe diarrhea among children aged up to five years. Over half-a-million children die annually from rotavirus infection, and several million more become ill, many seriously. Almost half of all these deaths occur in Africa, where so far, treatment for severe rotavirus diarrhea is either limited or unavailable for too many people.
Pneumococcal diseaseOver half a million children die from pneumococcal disease annually, most of them in Asia and Africa. Pneumococcal disease causes pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. Sepsis, also known as 'blood stream infection' refers to the presence of bacteria (bacteremia) or other pathogens or their toxins in the blood (septicemia), or in other tissue of the body.
The addition of 18 more countries that will receive funding for pneumococcal vaccines brings the total to 37 since December 2010, when GAVI started its support in Nicaragua.
GAVI, along with some partners, plans to support over 40 of the world's poorest nations and immunize over 50 million children against rotavirus infection.
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, said:
"The high number of approved applications for funding for new vaccines in this latest round is yet another milestone in the fight to prevent child deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases. As demand for new vaccines increases further, WHO will continue providing critical support to countries for decision-making on new vaccines, surveillance, and immunization program planning, training, and evaluation."
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, said:
"These new vaccines will prevent millions of children from dying of pneumonia and diarrhoea, the biggest killers of children under five. In rolling out these vaccines, we need to focus especially on reaching the children at greatest risk, for it is among the most vulnerable that these vaccines can make the biggest difference, especially if they are combined with better nutrition, sanitation and other critical interventions."
Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, Director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:
"Vaccines prevent disease and give children a healthy start to life - they represent one of the best investments in global health. We must work together to ensure that all children have access to the right set of vaccines, in rich and poor countries alike."
Rotavirus vaccines have saved countless children's lives. They have proven to be safe and extremely effective. Recent studies have demonstrated how rapidly a vaccination program can minimize infant deaths and improve children's health in an area.
Before rotavirus vaccines were introduced in Mexico in 2006, half of all childhood deaths due to diarrhea were caused by rotavirus - since then, the number Mexican children under the age of five who die from diarrhea has fallen by 46%.
The Alliance also plans to help over 40 countries introduce pneumococcal vaccines and immunize over 90 million kids against pneumococcal disease by 2015.
Written by Christian Nordqvist