10.5 Million Children Vaccinated Against Hepatitis B
GAVI releases progress report at international forum
DAKAR, SENEGAL, 20 November 2002 - The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and its financing arm, The Vaccine Fund, today released new figures showing that their innovative, business-like approach to development aid has enabled 10.5 million children so far to be vaccinated hepatitis B, a deadly infection that is a leading cause of liver disease and cancer in the developing world. Issued in conjunction with the new report, The State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization, the GAVI Progress Report 2002 reveals that 55 developing countries have already received assistance to improve their vaccination services, enabling them to provide more children with all essential vaccines.
Released at the Second GAVI Partners' Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, a gathering of global health leaders from more than 60 countries, including more than 30 health and finance ministers, the GAVI report provides clear evidence that this novel public-private alliance, and its significant financial backing from the Vaccine Fund, is creating new interest in vaccines for the poorest countries.
"Our times require new solutions including new partnerships - with private industry, developing country governments, and new ways of financing. The alliance has helped us to deliver more and faster than if any of the partners had gone it alone," said Dr Tore Godal, Executive Secretary of GAVI. Partners in this alliance include public institutions such as WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank, bilateral aid and nongovernmental agencies, the vaccine industry, new partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and most importantly, developing country governments themselves.
In under three years, GAVI and the Vaccine Fund have provided nearly 50 national health programs catalytic funding which they can use to strengthen their systems for delivering all essential vaccines to the population. In addition, 33 more countries have been able to protect their children against hepatitis B through GAVI vaccine donations; seven countries now provide vaccine protection against Haemophilus influenzae type b; and seven provide infants with yellow fever vaccination. In many cases, these new vaccines are delivered in combination with traditional vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
"Today, liver cancer caused by hepatitis B infection is the number one or two cause of cancer deaths in men in most of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. If we can drastically increase vaccine coverage, in a few decades liver cancer in Africa and Asia will be almost nonexistent", said Dr Mark Kane, director of the Children's Vaccine Program at PATH and one of the architects of GAVI and the Vaccine Fund. Vaccines against hepatitis b have been available for almost 20 years, and their impact is reflected in reduced numbers of adult deaths from liver cancer in countries where the vaccine is used routinely infants. Prior to GAVI, most of the world's poorest countries had not yet introduced the vaccine.
Since the program started, 130 million vaccine doses have been delivered to countries. According to preliminary estimates by WHO, the vaccines provided to countries by GAVI and the Vaccine Fund have already saved more than 100,000 lives. As the countries scale up their programs, millions more children will be newly protected - with all basic vaccines - saving thousands more lives.
The renewed interest in vaccines for the developing countries has influenced the vaccine industry as well. It is predicted that in the upcoming years several other manufacturers will introduce combination vaccines, such as DTP-hepatitis B and DTP-hepatitis B-Haemophilus influenzae type b, which are preferred by countries due to the ease of administration. "Stronger country forecasts and stable funding are the pillars for securing vaccines from industry", said Carol Bellamy, GAVI Board Chair and Executive Director of UNICEF, the agency that manages the procurement and delivery of vaccines for GAVI.
But challenges remain. In some countries, war, political turmoil, failing economies, and natural disaster have impeded the transfer of GAVI/Vaccine Fund assets to local governments. In other countries, the introduction of a complex new vaccine has over-stressed fragile health systems; numerous delays were reported in getting the vaccines from the central store out into the health centers where they could be injected into children's arms.
"The GAVI application process has shined a spotlight on the difficulties facing health managers in the poorest countries - problems that won't be solved overnight and without adequate resources", said Jacques-Francois Martin, President of The Vaccine Fund. "As the alliance transitions from a start-up venture to managing the implementation of programs, the partners will need more resources to fulfill their obligations."
The GAVI partners use a rigorous business-like framework to allocate funds from the Vaccine Fund. Based upon three essential points - strong cooperation, strategic planning and quantifiable results - this approach requires countries to develop strong coordination among local partners, prepare multi-year plans to improve health care and its financing, and importantly, establish a system to measure and verify results. Some countries have used the funds to buy computers for health centers, while others have created incentives for managers in low-performing districts to increase immunization coverage.
In May 2000, GAVI and the Vaccine Fund issued their first call for proposals to the 74 poorest countries in the world (in 2002, East Timor was added). Since that time, 69 of the countries have submitted proposals, and 55 countries have already received vaccines, supplies, and cash grants to strengthen health care infrastructure. Other proposals are pending.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) is a coalition formed in response to stagnating global immunization rates and widening disparities in vaccine access among industrialized and developing countries. The GAVI partners include: national governments, UNICEF, WHO, The World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the vaccine industry, public health institutions and NGOs. The Vaccine Fund is a new financing resource created to support the GAVI immunization goals, providing financial support directly to low-income countries to strengthen their immunization services and to purchase new and under-used vaccines.
FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Lisa Jacobs at +41 79 447 1935
or Heidi Larson at + 221 637 3214