Partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and several other aid agencies, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) is rolling out a universal introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine across Kenya today.
The rollout in Kenya is part of a global initiative to vaccinate children in developing countries with the pneumococcal vaccine, which not only saves lives, but also cuts health care costs by focusing on prevention rather than delayed treatment. Every year thousands of children in Kenya die due to pneumonia-related health issues.
“Routine vaccination is one of the most cost-effective public health investments a government can make and we are counting on our donors to continue their strong backing for our life-saving mission,” said Helen Evans, interim CEO of the GAVI Alliance.
“The rapid roll-out of new-generation pneumococcal vaccines shows how innovation and technology can be harnessed, at affordable prices, to save lives in the developing world. The payback, as measured by reduced childhood mortality, will be enormous,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
According to GAVI, pneumonia is the world’s “biggest child killer,” and hits children in developing countries particularly hard. There the vaccine is not integrated into a routine vaccination schedule, as it is in the United States. Over 500,000 children under the age of five die of pneumonia every year–the disease is the cause of 18% of child deaths in the developing world.
“Introducing the new pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in developing countries is a critical step that can prevent millions of bouts of illness and countless deaths in children from the terrible disease that pneumonia is,” said Evans.
GAVI and its partners are aiming to introduce the vaccine to over 40 countries, thereby saving 700,000 lives by 2015, and seven million lives by 2030.