DAR-ESSALAM, Tanzania — A child dies every 20 seconds from diseases that could be prevented if they had been vaccinated. This was one of the main points highlighted at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) fifth Partners Forum held in Dar-Essalam Tanzania.
The Conference also highlighted that despite great strides made in immunization in recent years, with the coverage increasing from 74% in 2000 to 83% in 2011, there is still inequality in the process with one out of every five children not getting basic vaccinations.
It was also highlighted that the poorest children many from remote areas from migrant communities or disadvantaged groups are not receiving vital vaccinations as well as essential healthcare.
The charity Save the Children urged the delegates attending to unify efforts to stop children from being denied this right.
The GAVI forum brought together more than 650 global health and government leaders to explore ways to bridge the gap in the immunization field. GAVI, which was launched in January 2000, works towards protecting children’s lives by increasing access to immunization.
It does this through funding vaccines for children in the world’s 70 poorest countries and by bringing together the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank, civil society, vaccine industry, research and technical agencies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private-sector philanthropists.
The need to intensify the campaign for immunization was further reiterated by Medecins Sans Frontieres, which pointed out that the global number of babies not fully vaccinated had risen from 19 million in 2010 to 22.4 million in 2012.
Dr. Manica Balasegaram, Director of the MSF Access Campaign, questioned why babies are still dying of vaccine-preventable diseases. He added: "The global vaccines community could be doing a lot better to make sure all babies in developing countries are fully vaccinated against killer diseases. We need vaccines that are easier to use in hard-to-reach places."
Although GAVI has made significant achievements in its first 12 years, serious obstacles remain in the path of continued progress to ensure all children, no matter where they are born, have access to life-saving vaccines.
The theme of forum, “Rising to the Challenge,” reflected the need to collectively address these challenges and work hard to identify the best solutions.
Since its inception, GAVI has supported countries to protect an additional 370 million children from potentially fatal diseases, and has prevented more than 5.5 million future deaths. Progress in preventing disease has accelerated in the past three years, as new vaccines have been introduced rapidly into the developing countries where they are most urgently needed.
“In the past three years, the GAVI Alliance has introduced new vaccines to protect children against the major causes of pneumonia and diarrhea. We are extremely proud of our achievements,” said GAVI Board Chair Dagfinn Hoybraten, who was re-appointed for another two-year term.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, pointed out that strengthening routine immunization services continues to be an important focus for GAVI, especially in countries with the greatest number of under-vaccinated children.
“The GAVI Alliance is moving faster than ever to deliver the benefits of immunization to children, their families and their communities,” he said. “This is a partnership that delivers results through innovative methods based on sustainable financing and increasing access to immunization.”
Simon Wright from Save the Children called on donors to do much more to support countries to achieve and sustain universal immunization coverage. “There are proven strategies to reach these children, and at the same time extend access to essential health services that they badly need.”
Earlier this week the GAVI Alliance, Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (Path), Unicef and the WHO also celebrated vaccination of the 100 millionth person immunized by the revolutionary meningitis vaccine in a region of Africa known as the "meningitis belt’. Called the MenAfriVac, the vaccine was specially made for Africa through a partnership between the WHO, Path and the Serum Institute of India.