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Africa receives first vaccines under global immunization campaign: UNICEF

Africa receives first vaccines under global immunization campaign: UNICEF

In a major step towards saving the lives of millions of children, a global immunization campaign supported by several United Nations agencies began today the first round of its worldwide schedule of vaccine deliveries.

The first delivery under the campaign - which is carried out by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the Global Fund for Children's Vaccines - was made in Mozambique, some 45 kilometres from Maputo, UNICEF, (the UN Children's Fund), said today in a statement.

At the delivery site, Bill Gates Sr., Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (a GAVI partner), joined President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, to see the immunization of children with a combination vaccine -- TP-hepB -- against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and hepatitis B.

At the event, President Chissano announced the launching of a pilot project in Boane District that would set in motion a range of activities to revitalize the country's immunization programme, including information campaigns and training health workers about the new vaccine and safety precautions.

"Vaccine safety is just as important as the vaccines themselves," Ms. Bellamy said. "Poor vaccination practices can lead to the spread of disease, rather than its prevention. Supporting countries to improve injection practices is part and parcel of GAVI's mission."

The Mozambican Government received the first half of 1.3 million doses of DTP-hepB vaccines worth an estimated $1.5 million.

GAVI is a coalition of organizations formed in 1999 in response to stagnating immunization rates and widening disparities in vaccine access among industrialized and developing countries. Its partners include governments, the Gates Children's Vaccine Program at PATH, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations, research and public health institutions, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, UNICEF, the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Also created in 1999, the Global Fund for Children's Vaccines provides financial support to low-income countries to strengthen their immunization services. The Fund received an initial $750 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and has since received support from governments and other donors.