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Although vaccination has recently become a subject of dubious controversy, overwhelming scientific evidence has proven that immunization is one of the most cost-effective and successful health interventions developed over the last 50 years. Since their discovery and implementation, vaccines have reduced illness and disability from a host of diseases, prevented 2.5 million deaths a year, lowered the worldwide incidence of polio by 99%, and eradicated smallpox entirely. In particular, immunized children protected from the threat of vaccine-preventable infectious agents have a better chance of realizing their full potential as adolescents and adults.
Vaccine-preventable infectious agents and diseases. Source: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2017/04/world-immunization-week-power-of-vaccines-still-not-fully-utilized-says-un-health-agency/
Despite these magnificent achievements, 20% of children worldwide currently are not protected with the most basic vaccines. An estimated 1.5 million children die each year – one every 20 seconds – from diseases such as pneumonia and complications such as diarrhea.
Some of the significant obstacles causing problems include:
Recognizing these challenges, nearly 200 countries have endorsed a shared vision – known as the Decade of Vaccines – to extend the benefits of immunization to every person by 2020 and thereby save more than 20 million lives.
In this post, we take a look at four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have partnered to ensure the Decade of Vaccines is a success: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and Johns Hopkins University.
Goals of the Decade of Vaccines. Source: https://www.who.int/immunization/global_vaccine_action_plan/GVAP_doc_2011_2020/en/
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to saving millions of lives each year by providing support for global immunizations and vaccine delivery. Working together with national governments, international organizations, academia, the private sector, and local communities, the foundation introduces life-saving vaccines into countries where people need them most, in addition to supporting the innovation needed to develop new vaccines and methods of transportation.
The foundation’s concrete objectives are to prevent more than 11 million deaths, 3.9 million disabilities, and 264 million illnesses by 2020 through equitable and sustainable vaccine coverage. In particular, it invests directly in Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria, which account for the most significant proportion of the world’s unvaccinated children. It is also working to help eradicate polio worldwide by focusing efforts on Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan, the remaining polio-endemic countries.
The Gates Foundation works to strengthen global immunization systems from a variety of approaches:
During the earliest decades of their administration, immunization programs made significant strides. By 1990, a remarkable 80% of the world's children were being immunized for measles, polio, tetanus, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and pertussis. Unfortunately, by the turn of the 21st century, this progress ground to a halt as donor contributions subsided and pharmaceutical companies ignored developing companies as a weak market incentive.
Bill & Melinda Gates stepped in to reverse this regrettable trend. They pledged $750 million over five years to bring together public and private sectors to study and alleviate the problem of stagnation. Six months later, the Gates Foundation added to the momentum by hosting a dinner for leading scientists to discuss methods to overcome the barriers preventing millions of children from receiving basic vaccines and challenged them to develop solutions.
In March 1999, a second summit at Bellagio in northern Italy provided a breakthrough solution to the Gates' challenge. Two months later, in January 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance) was formally launched at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, where it is currently based in Geneva.
Gavi is a unique global public-private partnership of government leaders, scientists, health experts, businesses, and philanthropic organizations whose mission is to save children’s lives and improve health through increased access to immunization in the world’s poorest countries. It provides funding to buy vaccines and technical support for 73 of the world’s developing nations.
Gavi’s administrative model is designed to leverage both financial resources and expertise to help provide vaccines that are more affordable, available and sustainable. The ultimate goal is to help national governments pay for immunization programs without the need for international aid, and so far, it seems to be working.
Gavi’s goal is to reach 300 million children and prevent over 5 million deaths by 2020. Source: https://www.gavi.org/about/strategy/
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) currently immunizes 45% of the world’s children in more than 190 countries. Like its partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF also has its own ambitious 2020 agenda. Working with government officials, health professionals, academia, global agencies, media and the private sector, UNICEF has established a Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) endorsed by the 194 Member States of the World Health Assembly in May 2012.
GVAP’s mission is also to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to vaccines. It builds on the success of the Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (2006 – 2015), which was launched in 2005 as the first ten-year plan to realize the potential of immunization. To extend vaccinations to everyone, GVAP ensures adequate resources, develops healthcare systems, and works with countries to train health workers needed to reach remote and marginalized populations. The plan also articulates the need for a concerted effort to develop new and improved vaccines and technologies that will help bolster the benefits of immunization moving forward.
Six principles have guided the elaboration of the Global Vaccine Action Plan. Source: https://www.who.int/immunization/global_vaccine_action_plan/GVAP_doc_2011_2020/en/
The mission of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) is to “accelerate equitable access to vaccines through the generation, synthesis, and use of evidence to inform decision-making and action.”
Since 2009, IVAC has partnered with governments, international agencies, research groups, and non-profit organizations seeking to improve access to life-saving immunizations. In particular, IVAC works alongside Gavi to build knowledge and support for the value of vaccines and to provide evidence-based research to influence policymakers on the effectiveness of vaccines.
IVAC takes a three-pronged approach:
In recent years, IVAC has expanded its scope and now provides global technical leadership on more than 15 vaccine-preventable diseases and syndromes.
Dramatic improvements in child survival rates since 2000. Source: https://www.jhsph.edu/ivac/about/our-story/
The 20th century focused on treatment of diseases, such as the use of antibiotics, which dramatically reduced disability and death. The 21st century looks ahead to vaccines and immunization, which have the potential to actually eradicate infectious diseases altogether.
Now in 2019, only one year before the 2020 deadline for the goals of both Gavi and GVAP, the global health community has an unprecedented opportunity to develop and implement plans to provide global and universal access to vaccines. Immunization must be recognized as a human right and, therefore, a responsibility. As each of the four NGO partners has convincingly argued and demonstrated, vaccines are an essential investment in the world’s future.
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