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Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation needs to open up to civil society

GAVI is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. This is a massive UN-backed public-private partnership to increase access to vaccines to prevent child mortality in developing countries. They’re holding a “Partners’ Forum” in Hanoi, Vietnam this week, and invited Save the Children to attend, so that civil society, NGOs and organisations working on the ground are heard, as well as the researchers, government and UK officials.

Among the announcements that started off the meeting was the calculation that, over 10 years, increased immunisation may have ensured 4 million fewer child deaths worldwide. They also show that GAVI’s policies have reduced the prices of some vaccines, although the fall is nowhere near what everyone thinks it should be.

In this financial recession, there is deep concern that donor money is not flowing and the ability to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce child mortality will be under threat if more funding does not come forward. Save the Children supports GAVI, and we’ve been part of a task team focussed on health system strengthening — an initiative which GAVI started to address the need to build health systems to deliver vaccines. We certainly want to see more action on vaccines to prevent the simple diseases which can kill children. Pneumonia and diarrhoea are two causes of deaths where vaccines can help, alongside other measures to prevent these illness, such as clean water, improved sanitation and better care for babies and children.

But we also want to see GAVI go further in three areas:

  • To drive down the prices of vaccines, they need to avoid allowing monopolies of patent-holding companies.
  • They need to support more local production of vaccines (instead of shipping them from Europe and North America) and
  • encourage competition between companies including for generic versions of vaccines.

To make sure that immunisation programmes are sustainable, they need to support health systems and go into the common platform that is proposed to harmonise their aid with the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB & Malaria. And finally, they need to involve civil society more, especially ensuring that community organisations are involved in planning of work at national level. To do this, they should follow the Global Fund’s practice of insisting that proposals from countries show that the relevant government has worked with their civil society.

We’re trying to make sure these points are reflected strongly in the civil society statement which will be issued at the end of the Forum.

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