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World Must Extend Access To Life-Saving Vaccines To All Children

“For too long, there has been an unwritten rule that it can take 15 years or more before children in the poorest nations benefit from new life-saving vaccines in use in rich countries,” Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, writes in this post in the Independent’s “Notebook” blog. “But national celebrations in Ghana this week show how this shameful gap is rapidly being closed,” he continues, noting, “This week the rotavirus vaccine to protect against severe diarrhea and the pneumococcal vaccine which targets the primary cause of pneumonia — the two biggest killers of children — are being introduced” in the country, making it the first in Africa to roll these vaccines out simultaneously.

“The power of vaccines is vital in every society, rich or poor. But their impact is even greater in developing countries because of the quality of basic health services,” Berkley continues. He notes, “Developing countries have made vaccination a major health priority, putting in place the systems to deliver immunization programs and helping fund the cost of vaccines through their own resources,” and as a result, “some 325 million additional children have been vaccinated against a wide variety of diseases since 2000, helping prevent five million early deaths.” He concludes, “This week’s celebrations in Ghana show just what can be achieved. But we can’t rest while 1.7 million children — one every 20 seconds — are still dying every year from diseases which we can prevent” (4/26).