This week is World Immunization Week. An opportunity for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other stakeholders to promote the fact that immunization prevents debilitating illness and disability and saves lives.
The UK government shares this view, coming out strongly in favour of vaccinations and immunization in the June 2011 pledging conference for the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). More than £814 Million between 2011-2015 has been earmarked. “Every day”, noted the UK Secretary of State for International Development, ”the lives of 7000 children are saved by vaccines. Vaccinations are proof positive that well spent aid saves lives. They are one of the best and most cost effective health interventions that money can buy.”
Globally more than 7.6 million children die annually from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea – a quarter of these deaths are of vaccine preventable diseases. Significant progress has been made since 1990 when child mortality exceeded 12 million yet significant challenges remain. In order to reach MDG Four on reducing child mortality by two thirds by 2015 progress must increase fourfold. Immunisation holds the key to accelerating progress and is one of the best methods we have to save children’s lives and to improve their health.
The WHO Expanded Programme on Immunization includes a broad spectrum of vaccines, including Rubella, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio but for some of the most neglected diseases of poverty immunizations are still sorely lacking. TB, Malaria and HIV/AIDS still want of an effective vaccine. Whilst developments have been made for all three diseases and major breakthroughs are possible and predicted, we need continued long-term political commitment and sustained funding to ensure that this momentum and optimism do not fade away.
For many advocates vaccines are the only cost effective, wholesale means of getting to zero deaths from some of the world’s biggest diseases. As we celebrate the developments made in the field of vaccines to date, we also reflect on the work still to be done. We absolutely need to make sure that all the vaccines we have reach the most vulnerable child, and we must continue to support the further development of new critical and life-saving vaccines against diseases of poverty such as HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. The poorest and most vulnerable children deserve nothing less.
Written by Caroline Hames, Global Health Advocacy Manager – RESULTS UK and co-chair of the TB/HIV WG of the UK Consortium
UK Consortium event on HIV and TB Vaccines
May 18th 10-1pm, Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, Westminster. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org