Polio eradication efforts are the focus of the United Nations-backed Global Vaccine Summit which also aims to protect millions of children from diseases like measles and tetanus through inoculations.
“Immunization is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent these diseases and safeguard young lives,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his video message to the Summit in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
He note that 80 per cent of children – more than at any time in history – are immunized, but cautioned that work remains, “We have reached four out of five children worldwide. Now it is time to reach that fifth child wherever he or she may be. We must break down all barriers that stand in our way.”
Health groups at the Summit today announced they could rid the world of polio by 2018 with a $5.5 billion vaccination and monitoring plan to stop the disease.
“The global success so far in fighting polio shows how far we can advance,” Mr. Ban said, highlighting the international alliance of partners which includes the UN, governments, civil society and private sector.
“We have a window of opportunity to end polio forever. And we have a greater appreciation for the power of partnerships,” Mr. Ban said.
The Summit is being held during World Immunization Week which started on 20 April with its call to “protect your world, get vaccinated” in 180 countries, as part of an efforts to reach universal immunization coverage.
Vaccination averts an estimated 2-3 million deaths every year, according to UN figures, from preventable diseases such as diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, pneumonia, polio rotavirus, diarrhoea, rubella and tetanus.
Children’s and maternal health are important to all eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to reduce multiple global ills by 2015, particularly to Goals 4 on reducing under-five mortality by two thirds by 2015. Mr. Ban recently launched 1,000 Days of Action to boost progress towards achievement of the MDGs by their deadline.
Meanwhile, staring today in Somalia, 425,000 children born each year will receive the Pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five potentially fatal childhood diseases.
Launched today at the Summit in Abu Dhabi, three-doses of the vaccine protect against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hepatitis B and an influenza known as Hib which can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and other illnesses.
The vaccine is being used staring today in Somali capital, Mogadishu, as well as Garowe in Puntland and Hargeisa in Somaliland. The 1.3 million doses provided will be used to immunize children under one year of age, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is taking part in the launch along with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the GAVI Alliance.
The launch of the vaccine is being accompanied by an outreach campaign to make parents aware of the importance of the new vaccine.
“It is crucial that this vaccine reaches every Somali child in the country,” said Sikander Khan, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “We urge all parents, community, traditional and religious leaders to participate in the immunisation activity, to ensure all children of Somalia can benefit from the protection offered.”
Somalia has one of the worst health indicators in the world with one in every five Somali children dying before their fifth birthday, according to UNICEF.