Time to reflect on vaccines
Last week in Dar es Salaam saw a global gathering of those working to bring vaccines to all.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) held a Partners’ Forum, the theme of which was ‘Rising to the Challenge’.
Attending were senior political leaders including heads of state and ministers of health and finance, as well as representatives from donor countries, multilateral agencies such as the World Health Organization, the private sector and civil society organisations.
So now is a good time to reflect on where we stand on vaccines globally, what the next challenges are and what hopes are there for substantive progress?
Where do we stand now?
The good news is that global immunisation coverage has increased from 74% in 2000 to 83% currently. In 2011 there were 10 million fewer unimmunised children than a decade ago.
The GAVI Alliance has also managed to fare reasonably well over the period of the financial crisis. The pledging conference hosted by the UK government in June 2011 enabled the donor community to commit $4.3 billion to GAVI.
These extra funds have allowed GAVI to aid partner countries to roll out new vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhoea very soon after they became available. But at the same time we also know that the children being denied access to vaccines are the poorest and the most marginalised.
It is these children that in fact benefit most from vaccines as they are typically more prone to infections due to their poor nutritional status and are frequently unable to access or afford healthcare.
The next challenges
The next challenge will therefore be providing Immunisation for All – the topic of a Save the Children report launched as the GAVI Partners Forum commenced.
The need to strengthen routine immunisation services in all countries to ensure that no child is left behind was one of this report’s key recommendations. But it was also a recurrent theme of the meeting as addressing equity in vaccine provision was constantly revisited.
The basic healthcare systems of many countries will need to be built up and strengthened if this goal is to be achieved – so providing immunisation for all will also serve as a stepping stone to better healthcare for all children too.
Hopes for substantive progress
There’s no denying the progress that has been made in the number of vaccines being provided and the number of children receiving them.
Since the previous GAVI Partners’ Forum held in Hanoi in 2009 there has also been progress in terms of how well the GAVI Alliance works with its civil society partners.
But more can be done to fully reflect civil society within the GAVI Alliance – for example a second board seat for civil society was again called for by the civil society statement in Dar es Salaam. And civil society can also play a key role in reaching those currently beyond immunisation programmes.
Progress in improving partnerships could therefore help to achieve the goal of immunisation for all.