We are thrilled to be able to report that the first children in the world have begun to receive their vaccinations against the world’s biggest child killer — pneumonia. These children are in Kenya, and they are the first wave of vaccinations that are currently heading out to 40 developing countries.
Pneumococcal disease currently takes the lives of over a million of people every year – including more than half a million children before their fifth birthday. Pneumonia is the most common form of serious pneumococcal disease and accounts for 18% of child deaths in developing countries, making it one of the two leading causes of death among young children.
“Today’s introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine in Kenya is an historic step towards improved health for children in Kenya and in other developing countries,” said Kenya’s Minister for Public Health and Sanitation, Beth Mugo. “The global introduction of pneumococcal vaccination is a milestone in global health and will help us reduce child mortality.”
Kenya is the first African country to roll-out this pneumococcal conjugate vaccine which has been specially-tailored to meet the needs of children in developing countries. Nicaragua, Guyana, Yemen and Sierra Leone are also rolling out the vaccine with support from GAVI, which brings together governments, UNICEF, WHO and other key players in global health.
For those of you who have been following RESULTS work, at the start of the month we called on the UK Government to use its existing commitment to GAVI to push the rest of Europe to follow suit. It is precisely because of the availability of new vaccines like this pneumococcal vaccine that GAVI needs to have a strong and successful pledging conference in London later this year in June.
The GAVI Alliance has committed to support the introduction of pneumococcal vaccines in 19 developing countries within a year and, if it gets sufficient funding from its donors, plans to roll them out to more than 40 countries by 2015.
GAVI needs an additional US$ 3.7 billion over the next five years to continue its support for immunisation in the world’s poorest countries and introduce new and underused vaccines including the pneumococcal vaccine and the rotavirus vaccine which tackles diarrhoea – the second biggest killer of children under five.
UNICEF Director, Anthoy Lake, said:
The pneumococcal vaccine can help us to dramatically reduce the number of children who die from pneumonia, a killer disease that is responsible for millions of deaths globally every year. By combining the power of immunisation with other measures like better nutrition and sanitation, we can change – and save – millions of children’s lives.
Andrew Mitchell commented on the UK’s support:
As one of the biggest supporters to the GAVI Alliance, the United Kingdom is at the forefront of international efforts to protect children from preventable diseases. Today’s launch is an important step forward in the fight to reduce child mortality and protect the world’s poorest children. I am fully committed to working with our international partners to ensure that GAVI’s valuable work continues to receive the support it deserves and look forward to hosting GAVI’s next pledging conference in London in June.