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We have to extend the vaccine revolution to every child in every corner of our world

Vaccine image 300x199 We have to extend the vaccine revolution to every child in every corner of our worldFor too long, there has been an unwritten rule that it can take 15 years or more before children in the poorest nations benefit from new life-saving vaccines in use in rich countries. It’s a tragic time-lag that has cost many millions of lives.

But national celebrations in Ghana this week show how this shameful gap is rapidly being closed.

Ghana, in fact, already has an impressive immunization programme with vaccination rates higher than some richer countries. But it is determined to go further.

This week the rotavirus vaccine to protect against severe diarrhea and the pneumococcal vaccine which targets the primary cause of pneumonia – the two biggest killers of children – are being introduced. It is an historic milestone. No other African country has rolled out these vaccines simultaneously. But what is also remarkable is the speed with which these vaccines are being introduced.

The 13 strain pneumococcal vaccine, for example, was first used in Europe only a couple of years ago. Even better, it is already protecting children in 14 other developing countries. This is hugely important. The power of vaccines is vital in every society, rich or poor. But their impact is even greater in developing countries because of the quality of basic health services.

Yet until recently, the countries which most needed these life-saving vaccines were all too often the least able to offer them. The result was not just millions of unnecessary deaths but a major brake on economic and social development.

But this position is being transformed as  children will now be provided with the miracle of vaccines wherever they live. And it is working. Huge strides have been made in lowering vaccine prices. New vaccine producers in developing countries have emerged. Donor countries have stepped up their support.

Developing countries have made vaccination a major health priority, putting in place the systems to deliver immunization programmes and helping fund the cost of vaccines through their own resources.

The result is that some 325 million additional children have been vaccinated against a wide variety of diseases since 2000, helping prevent five million early deaths.

The impact goes far beyond the immediate benefits to children and their families. Healthier children can attend school, learn more effectively and lead more productive lives. And vaccines also provide tremendous value for money. They are easy to administer and, in most cases, offer permanent immunity. The new pentavalent vaccine protects a child for life against five major deadly diseases for around the price of a cinema ticket.

But there is much more to do. I have worked in the field of vaccinations and disease prevention now for over three decades. I don’t think there has ever been a time when vaccines present greater opportunities.

We can now protect against the main causes of cervical and liver cancer. We could be close to effective vaccines to combat malaria and, eventually, HIV/Aids.

This week’s celebrations in Ghana show just what can be achieved.

But we can’t rest while 1.7 million children – one every 20 seconds – are still dying every year from diseases which we can prevent.

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  • LouisStatham

    We need to make the big drug company’s make vaccine’s that are affordable to the third would

  • Thrasos

    So soon there will be a population explosion in these countries because so many will survive these diseases.  Who’s going to feed them?

  • Arclight101

    This whole article is based on the premise that it is the duty of Europe and the West to look after Africa and Africans.

    It is not.  

    The reason that there is a time lag between vaccinations being developed and used in Africa is because i) these vaccines are developed in the West, ii) they are paid for in the West iii) Africa neither develops vaccines, nor expects to pay for them when others develop them. Africa expects charity. 

    But given the open hostility of most Africans towards white people in general an independent observer may wonder why Europeans should feel any duty at all to the population of that continent. 

    I can think of only one thing worse than being part of a minority Christian population in a majority muslim country as in Egypt or Pakistan, and that’s being part of a minority white population in a majority black country as in Zimbabwe, South Africa, or indeed just about any African nation. Western aid is currently the only thing preventing a blood bath of white people in these African countries, but if the West goes soft, black, or ga ga, forget it, the hatchets will be out, Rwanda style. 

    So as far as I’m concerned Africa can pay for its vaccines, or forget about them.

  • manwhosees

    Can anyone explain any possible benefits in having millions upon millions of additional useless people surviving, (until they starve to death) in this way overpopulated world ?

  • manwhosees

    What for ?

  • albertwilliams01

    As Dr Berkley’s blog makes clear, African countries are helping fund the cost of the vaccines. That is one of the reasons why the GAVI initiative works so well. The idea, too, that vaccines are only being developed in the West is badly out-of-date. India, for example, is a major player in this area.

    And even from the most self-interested of positions, if we want to eradicate more deadly diseases from our world – as we have with smallpox and are close to achieving with polio – then you can’t leave pockets of infection anywhere. 

  • albertwilliams01

    As the blog makes clear, African countries are co-funding the vaccines. It is one of the reasi


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