UN, private sector take stock of global immunization efforts

18 February 2009

United Nations agencies and their partners in the global fight against diseases that can be prevented by vaccines are meeting in New York to assess the coverage provided by immunizations, which prevent two million children’s deaths annually.

The three-day meeting, which began yesterday, is being hosted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the GAVI Alliance, an initiative including the two agencies, along with the World Bank, developing and industrialized countries’ governments and the private sector.

Peter Salama, UNICEF’s Chief of Health, said that the gathering is an opportunity to identify means to reach immunization targets.

“An additional two million lives could be saved every year by expanding existing immunization coverage and adding available new vaccines for diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, two of the leading causes of death for children under five years of age,” he noted.

Vaccines have eradicated smallpox, dropped the global incidence of polio by 99 per cent since 1988 and slashed illness and death from diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

Last year, measles partners announced that mortality due to measles plummeted 74 per cent worldwide between 2000 and 2007.

Participants at the New York event are examining progress made in implementing the Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (GIVS), created by UNICEF and WHO to step up immunization for major diseases to at least 90 per cent in all countries by 2010.

Immunizations are a key component of the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which calls for cutting child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

 

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