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World Immunisation Week: Celebrating a life-saver that needs to be universal

vaccination_470This week is World Immunisation Week: a time to celebrate the importance of life-saving vaccines worldwide.

Immunisation is one of the most powerful tools that exists to improve health. Huge investments in vaccines and in the health services that deliver them, has increased global immunisation coverage to 83%.

This has dramatically improved child survival, almost the deaths of children under 5 since 1990 – from 12.6 million deaths to 6.6 million in 2012.

Progress has also been made to bring down vaccine prices so that they are more affordable for poor countries, and have the potential to reach more children.

Addressing inequalities

Despite this progress, one in five children – that’s 19.3 million children, from the poorest and most vulnerable families still miss out on receiving life-saving vaccination.

Our recent reports, Finding the Final Fifth and Immunisation for All identify where these unvaccinated children are and why they aren’t being reached.

Vaccines cannot be delivered alone. As well as the drugs themselves, it takes a well-functioning health system, built upon efficient supply chains, strong infrastructure, and qualified and supported health workers to increase immunisation coverage.

Immunisation can also be a powerful first point of contact with a child that brings otherwise excluded children into reach of the health system.

A critical time for GAVI

The GAVI Alliance is instrumental in supporting countries to achieve and sustain high immunisation coverage. Working with governments, civil society and other partners, GAVI supports more than 70 of the world’s poorest countries to introduce new vaccines and strengthen immunisation and health systems.

GAVI’s unique partnership model relies on co-financing from recipient governments, as well as using its purchasing power to shape markets, helping to secure the lowest prices for vaccines. In doing so, GAVI supports countries to develop long-term and sustainable immunisation programmes.

To date, 23 donor government and philanthropists have made commitments to GAVI. Most donors are on track to meeting their commitments to GAVI’s current strategy (2011-2015), as shown in our accountability check Halfway There: Delivering on the Promise of Immunisation for All.

GAVI is now developing its 2016-2020 strategy and will hold its second replenishment towards the end of this year to mobilise resources from its partners.

Our latest position paper calls on GAVI to:

• make equity – the equal distribution and utilisation of immunisation service – its top priority
• do more to strengthen overall immunisation and health delivery systems
• use its purchasing power to drive down vaccine prices – so that countries who graduate from GAVI support can maintain high levels of coverage
• revise its eligibility and graduation criteria to promote equity, taking into other factors in addition to national income
• improve GAVI governance, increasing representation of civil society

Immunisation for all

We know immunisation works, and every child has the right to benefit from it. This week, let’s celebrate the successes achieved as well as the future potential of immunisation, calling for a strong and fully funded future strategy for GAVI so that no child is left behind.

The world is even closer to ending all preventable child deaths. Expanding access to immunisation and broader health services has been – and will continue to be – critical.

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