“Vaccines are inexpensive, they are easy to deliver, and they are proven
to protect children from disease” – Bill Gates
Vaccines prevent an estimated 2.5 million deaths each year and give children the opportunity to both thrive and realize their full potential.[1. http://www.who.int/immunization/global_vaccine_action_plan/GVAP_Introduction_and_Immunization_Landscape_Today.pdf?ua=1] This fosters the societal growth, prosperous economies, and contributes to breaking the cycle of poverty.
In 1974, when UNICEF launched its Programme on Immunization, less than 5% of the world’s children were immunized during their first year of life. Today, immunization coverage has increased to 84%.[2. http://www.unicef.org/sowc2014/numbers/documents/english/SOWC2014_In%20Numbers_28%20Jan.pdf]
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) is a global health partnership representing stakeholders in immunization from private sectors, country donors and recipient countries. Its mandate is to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to vaccines in poor countries. With the support of the Canadian government, GAVI has accelerated immunization progress. Since 2000, an additional 440 million children immunized against leading vaccine-preventable diseases—such as pneumonia and severe diarrhea—in the world’s poorest countries, preventing approximately six million deaths.[3. GAVI is a far-reaching public-private partnership dedicated to increasing children’s access to vaccines in poor countries. The Alliance works to strengthen and expand routine immunization services and support the introduction of new and under-used vaccines.]
Despite this remarkable progress, over 22 million of the world’s poorest children still have not received the basic life-saving vaccines that are routine in most industrialized countries.[4. http://www.who.int/immunization/en/] As a result, one in five of all children who die before the age of five lose their lives to vaccine-preventable diseases. Most of these children live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Global health disparities: making everyone count, the example of Ethiopia
With the assistance of GAVI, the Ethiopian government has made a commitment to improving immunisation coverage. “Ethiopia has a policy of reaching the hard-to-reach parts of the country and focusing on prevention of disease […]” said Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, Dr. Admasu Kesetebirhan.[5. http://www.gavialliance.org/library/news/press-releases/2013/millions-of-ethiopian-children-to-be-protected-each-year-against-leading-cause-of-severe-diarrhoea/]
Ethiopia’s government has recognized that the only way to improve immunization rates among children in these pastoralist communities is through routine[6. The routine vaccines are :BCG, Hep B, Polio, DTP (Diphteria, Tetanos, Pertussis), Measles, Rubella, Pneumococcal, Rotavirus] immunization outreach programs. Sister Sofia Benti, an Outreach worker in the State of Afar, is working to establish the routine immunization schedules to reach herding communities in her state.
Deepening engagement between GAVI and Canada
In 2010, Canada demonstrated great world leadership with the launch of the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH), recognizing immunization as central to the fulfilment of child health. In March 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada will host a MNCH Summit in Toronto from May 28 to 30, 2014. Both Canada and GAVI have a shared interest in ensuring equal access for all, improving birth registration, and reaching the hardest to reach children.
Through the Muskoka Initiative, Canada’s total contribution to GAVI is US$ 256.2 million (2011-2015), which represents 3.5% of all GAVI contributions.[7. Canada pledged a total of CAD$ 65 million in direct contributions and US$125 million through the Advance Market Commitment for 2011-2015, and most recently has confirmed an additional grant of CAD $20 million for GAVI’s measles supplementary immunization activities.] Based on a preliminary financial forecast, in order to meet demand for future proposals for currently supported vaccines, GAVI estimates they will require approximately US $9 billion for 2016-2020. At the Summit, Canada has the opportunity to take the lead and set an example for other countries by announcing a leadership pledge for GAVI’s future strategy for 2016-2020 to kick off the global GAVI replenishment.