Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Immunization highlights: 2010


New vaccines, new opportunities

Supporting the introduction of pneumococcal vaccine in Nicaragua

A Nicaraguan toddler holding a vaccination card
PAHO
The introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in developing countries has the potential to significantly cut childhood mortality

Nicaragua ― the first country to receive funding from the GAVI Alliance for pneumococcal vaccine ― introduced the vaccine into its national immunization programme in 2010. The vaccine protects children against pneumococcal disease, which can cause potentially life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. The accelerated introduction was made possible by the partnership between the Nicaraguan government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF, USAID, and WHO. Accelerating routine use of this life-saving vaccine in low-income countries has the potential to save millions of lives and put these countries significantly closer to reaching MDG 4.

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Respective roles of global immunization partners

WHO is the United Nations specialized agency for health and a founding partner of the GAVI Alliance. GAVI depends on WHO's guidance on technical issues for the framing of its funding policies. WHO also plays a key role in supporting countries both in preparing their applications for GAVI funding and in the subsequent implentation and monitoring of activities.

World Health Assembly adopts resolution on pneumonia

Cover of the WHO/UNICEF Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia
The WHO/UNICEF Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia highlights key interventions to protect, prevent and treat children with pneumonia

A resolution on the treatment and prevention of pneumonia ― the number one killer of children under five ― makes clear that MDG 4 can only be achieved with intensified efforts to address pneumonia. Three groups of effective interventions to protect, prevent and treat children with pneumonia are highlighted in the resolution, in line with the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of pneumonia launched by WHO and UNICEF in 2009:

  • Protect children by providing a healthy environment where they are at low risk of pneumonia with exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and adequate nutrition thereafter; preventing low-birth-weight; reducing indoor air pollution; and ensuring good hand hygiene;
  • Prevent children from becoming ill with pneumonia by vaccinating against its causes: measles, pertussis, pneumococcus, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and preventing and treating HIV in children; and
  • Treat children who become ill with pneumonia through effective case management in communities, health centres and hospitals.

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Burkina Faso becomes first country to introduce new meningitis vaccine nationwide

A young women is vaccinated with the new meningitis vaccine at a rural health centre near Ouagadougou
WHO/A. Brunier
Queues to receive the new meningitis vaccine were long in the district of Koubri near Ouagadougou at the start of the nationwide campaign

The first meningococcal A conjugate vaccine, introduced nationwide in Burkina Faso in 2010, is expected to eliminate the primary cause of epidemic meningitis in Africa, if introduced in all 25 countries of what has become known as the "meningitis belt". Designed specifically to protect against group A meningococcus, which accounts for 80-85% of cases of meningitis in the 25 countries of the African meningitis belt, the vaccine is priced at less than US$ 0.50 per dose, and cost less than one-tenth of the US$ 500 million usually required to develop and bring a vaccine to market.

The vaccine was developed by the Meningitis Vaccine Project — a partnership between WHO and the international non-profit PATH, working closely with public health officials in countries of the meningitis belt, and research institutions across the world. It was manufactured by an Indian company, which agreed from the outset to accept technology transfer from companies with expertise in vaccine conjugation, and to sell the vaccine at a price affordable for African countries. Mali and Niger also began nationwide campaigns with the new vaccine in December. It is expected that, if the current funding gap is met, all 25 countries in the meningitis belt will be using the vaccine by 2015.

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