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A busy week for vaccines

Last week saw the international community take a couple of decisions that should see greater efforts to improve vaccination rates and thus reduce the numbers of children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Two international accords on vaccines

The first was the adoption by the European Parliament of a written declaration calling for the EU to support vaccines in EU external actions.

This had received a reprieve and an extension to get the backing of more than 378 MEPs by the end of the full session of the parliament on 24 May. By the end of the session 398 MEPs had signed the declaration and so it was adopted.

The second was adoption by the World Health Assembly of the Global Vaccine Action Plan. This plan came from a global consultation with inputs from more than 1,100 people in 142 countries.

The plan outlines a road map of how countries will improve vaccination programmes to give more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities.

Implementation is key to success

While the second decision would appear more significant, it remains true for both of these decisions that what happens next will decide how meaningful they both are.

The European Parliament now needs to ensure that its main work supports the written declaration it adopted.

The fine work that Mary Honeyball and her fellow proposing MEPS did in convincing the parliament now needs to be translated into concrete support from the EU to vaccines in developing countries.

The same could be said for the Global Vaccine Action Plan adopted by the World Health Assembly. Like many international declarations and accords the difficult part now comes with its application and implementation.

Finance is key to implementation

Key to making both the written declaration of the European Parliament and the Global Vaccines Action Plan meaningful will be delivering sufficient financial resources.

Increasing vaccination to cover both more people and a greater range of vaccines requires the building of health systems enabling them to cope with the extra work.

This is not impossible as the simultaneous roll out of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines in Ghana this month has demonstrated.

But to make such improvements happen investment is needed in vaccines themselves, the logistical infrastructure to distribute them and importantly in the health workers needed to provide the vaccinations to all.

 

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