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27-09-2011 | Gastroenterology | Article

GAVI alliance funding allows wider use of rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines


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MedWire News: Funding released by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) will allow 16 more developing countries to vaccinate children against rotavirus and 18 to vaccinate against pneumococcal disease.

"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," said GAVI chief executive officer Seth Berkley.

"Immunization enables good health and healthy people are more productive and ultimately fuel economic growth."

The GAVI Alliance was set up in 2000 to bring together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank, and the global vaccine industry, among other donors and organizations, with the aim of increasing access to immunization in poor countries. Since its launch it has helped an estimated 288 million children across the world to be vaccinated with new and underused vaccines.

Of the 16 countries approved for rotavirus vaccination funding, 12 are in Africa. Rotavirus is the main cause of severe diarrhea in children under the age of 5 years and kills more than half a million children a year. Almost 50% of these deaths occur in African countries, due to limited or unavailable treatment.

These vaccines have been shown to be very effective for reducing severe rotavirus-related diarrhea and associated fatalities. For example, their introduction in Mexico in 2006 has reduced the number of childhood deaths from diarrhea by 46%.

Similarly, most (12/18) of the countries approved for pneumococcal vaccine distribution are also in Africa. These vaccines can protect children against pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis, which kill more than half a million children a year, largely in Africa and Asia.

"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," said Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO.

"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."

By the year 2015, GAVI plans to support more than 40 of the world's poorest countries to rollout vaccination programs for infections such as rotavirus and pneumococcal disease, and aims to help immunize more than 50 million children for these infections.

By Helen Albert

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