The Measles Initiative and the GAVI Alliance announced that infections resulting from the re-use of syringes for immunizations have been reduced to practically zero in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recently released study.
Over the past decade, advocacy efforts and the funding of safe injection materials, including auto-disable (AD) syringes, have virtually eliminated the dangerous practice of reusing syringes for vaccinations in sub-Saharan Africa. The AD syringe is designed to prevent dangerous re-use by locking automatically after a single injection.
“This is an encouraging step in reaching high health standards in some of the world’s poorest countries.” Dr. Edward Hoekstra, Senior Health Specialist at UNICEF and main author of the study. “The use of AD syringes is the best way of ensuring that children receive their shots safely, with no risk of contracting an infection due to contaminated devices,” added Dr. Hoekstra.“This is an encouraging step in reaching high health standards in some of the world’s poorest countries.”
The study reports that the wide-spread introduction of these syringes into immunization programmes in the developing world was due to increased awareness regarding the risks of reusable syringes, large-scale mass measles campaigns, and support from GAVI.
Starting in 1999 when the World Health Organization and UNICEF called for an improvement in injection safety standards, the global health community advocated for the exclusive use of AD syringes to deliver immunizations.
In 2000, roughly 39 percent of all health care-related injections administered globally were delivered with reused disposable or inadequately sterilized syringes, which resulted in an estimated 23 million people infected annually with hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
In 2001, the Measles Initiative built on this message when it started leading large-scale, nationwide measles catch-up campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa and other hot spots around the world.
The Measles Initiative – a partnership led by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization – required that all of its campaigns use safe injection materials, including AD syringes.
A total of 263 million children were vaccinated during measles campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa using AD syringes between 2001 and 2008.
In addition, in 2002, GAVI provided funds to nearly 90 percent (35 out of 39) of the sub-Saharan Africa countries over a three-year period to bolster injection safety support for routine immunization.
More than one million infections avoided each year
“Globally, more than one million infections are avoided each year through the exclusive use of the auto-disable syringes in immunization,” said Helen Evans, GAVI interim CEO.
“Dedicated funding, coupled with advocacy and training initiatives, have not only protected this generation of children against measles and other infectious diseases but have changed behaviour in a way that will benefit generations to come.”
The report shows that the combined efforts of the Measles Initiative and GAVI has been significant. Demand for AD syringes for immunization increased substantially, with the number purchased by UNICEF increasing from just over 11 million in 1997 to 927 million in 2006.
Between 2001 and 2010, the Measles Initiative helped to vaccinate more than 900 million people worldwide and train health care workers across more than 60 countries to use this new device.