By Esther Nakkazi
Development News- 20th September 2011
Dr. Sabine Ntakarutimana, the Minister of Health Burundi has introduced another life saving vaccine to the routine national vaccination programme.
Burundi becomes the tenth country in Africa to introduce new pneumococcal vaccines through immunisation, which could save about 16,000 deaths in Burundi annually.
The pneumococcal vaccine used in the fight against pneumonia was introduced last week, 20th September, the latest under the national Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), which covers 320,000 children between 0 to 11 months.
The EPI programme also includes other vaccines; BCG for tuberculosis, polio and measles vaccines as well as a combined pentavalent against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza.
“Immunisation is a better investment for the country, for the health of our children, the well-being of our families and the economic growth of our country. It is a right for children and the responsibility of parents,” said Ntakarutimana at the province of Kayanza where the vaccine was launched.
In Burundi, acute respiratory infections, which include pneumonia caused by pneumococcus, constitute the second major cause of under-five child mortality, about 16,000 deaths per year, according to epidemiological statistics from the Ministry of Health.
“Pneumonia is still killing too many of our children, but with this new vaccine we aim to reverse this tragedy and set our children on course for a healthy future,” said Dr. Ntakarutimana.
“The introduction of pneumococcal vaccines into Burundi is a solid long-term investment for the country’s social and economic potential,” said GAVI Alliance CEO, Dr Seth Berkley.
Pneumococcal disease, the leading cause of pneumonia is globally the biggest infections killer of children. It takes the lives of 800,000 children each year, largely in the developing world even if the disease is preventable.
According to UNICEF, 89 percent of all deaths linked to pneumococcal infection are due to pneumonia while 6 percent are due to meningitis and other serious complications are 5 per cent. Around 90 per cent of deaths occur in developing countries, particularly in Africa, two major risk factors HIV/AIDS and drepanocytaemia or sickle cell anaemia accelerate it.
Pneumococcal vaccines, once fully rolled out globally, are expected to save seven million lives by 2030.
“Of all the health interventions available, immunization is one the most efficient and cost effective, savings millions of children in the world,” said Mr. Souleymane Diabate, UNICEF Representative to Burundi.
Although, certain pneumococcal vaccines have been in existence since 2000, they have not reached the countries where they are needed most until recently.
However, in 2007 the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) launched an innovative vaccine financing effort called the pneumococcal advance market commitment to help change this and bring pneumococcal vaccines to developing countries.
With US$ 1.5 billion from Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Russian Federation, Norway, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a commitment of US$ 1.3 billion from GAVI, the AMC allowed the acceleration of production capacity by the two manufacturers who currently produce the vaccines.
Developing countries contribute a small but increasing, co-pay to purchase the vaccine and ensure that the model is sustainable.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and five leading donor countries manage the program. The Foundation also in 2010 announced a $10 billion commitment over the next ten years to increase access to childhood vaccines in the world poorest countries. The effort was labeled the ‘Decade of Vaccines.’
In recent months, the Central African Republic, Gambia, Cameroon, Benin and Rwanda have also introduced the new pneumococcal vaccine.
By 2015, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization Alliance plans to have supported the introduction of these vaccines in more than 40 developing countries.