The Governments of Central African Republic, Benin and Cameroon will introduce vaccines in the coming weeks to combat pneumonia, one of the biggest killers of children worldwide.Funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), these life-saving vaccines prevent pneumococcal disease, the leading cause of pneumonia, which is the major cause of death among children aged below five years. Pneumococcal disease is also responsible for meningitis, which can leave survivors with permanent disabilities, including mental retardation and seizures.
The Governments of Central African Republic and Cameroon will begin introducing the vaccine this week and Benin will begin roll-out in July. “The introduction of this vaccine represents a major milestone for our young generation. This new vaccine gives them hope today that they will grow up healthy and lead a productive future,” said Dr. Jean Michel Mandaba, Minister of Health of Central African Republic.
GAVI, which brings together governments, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other key players in global health aims to provide the vaccine to poor children in more than 40 countries by 2015. In the past seven months, Nicaragua, Guyana, Yemen, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Mali, DR Congo and Honduras introduced the pneumococcal vaccines.
“The pneumococcal vaccine is essential for African countries where pneumococcus infections account for 19-21% of mortality in children under five, “ said Dr. André Mama Fouda, Minister of Health of Cameroon. “Benin, Cameroon and the Central African Republic will introduce the vaccines into their immunisation programmes in July 2011. We hope that other countries in Africa continue to follow this example in order to protect their children.”
“We are determined to fight pneumonia and proud to co-finance this life-saving vaccine. We need to be committed if we wish to sustain our immunisation programmes,” said Professor Dorothée Akoko Kindé Gazard, Minister of Health of Benin.
“On behalf of the GAVI Alliance, we congratulate Benin, Central African Republic, and Cameroon for their leadership in reducing child mortality”, said Helen Evans, GAVI interim CEO. “Together, we are giving children in these countries the best tools we have available to prevent this life-threatening disease.”
These introductions will take place just a few weeks after the GAVI Alliance Pledging conference where donors committed $4.3 billion, enabling GAVI to reach more children faster than planned and to accelerate the introduction of new vaccines. Thanks to this funding, GAVI is on track to support the introduction of pneumococcal vaccines in more than 40 countries by 2015.
The roll-outs of the pneumococcal vaccines in countries such as CAR, Cameroon and Benin have been made possible through an innovative finance mechanism pioneered by GAVI called the Advance Market Commitment (AMC). With US$ 1.5 billion from Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Russian Federation, Norway, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a commitment of US$ 1.3 billion from GAVI, the AMC allowed the acceleration of production capacity by the two manufacturers who currently produce the vaccines.
This has contributed to ensuring that this new generation of pneumococcal vaccines are affordable in developing countries, as they are now available at a fraction of the price chaired in developed countries.