BUJUMBURA, 20 September 2011 – Burundi today intensified its efforts in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases, through the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine under the country’s national vaccination programme. The new vaccine was launched during an official ceremony in the province of Kayanza.
“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,” says Sabine Ntakarutimana, the Minister of Public Health and HIV/AIDS. “Immunization is a right for children and the responsibility of parents.”
Pneumococcal infection is responsible for 1.6 million deaths each year in the world, including 1 million children under five. The vaccine against pneumococcal will be introduced into the routine vaccination calendar under the national Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), which covers 320,000 children between 0 to 11 months and includes other vaccines such as BCG for tuberculosis, polio vaccine, measles vaccine, and a combined pentavalent against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza. This initiative is supported by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), as well as partners including UNICEF and WHO.
In Burundi, acute respiratory infections, which include pneumonia caused by pneumococcus, constitute the second major cause of under-five child mortality according to epidemiological statistics from the Ministry of Health.
“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 ai.
The majority of deaths linked to pneumococcal infection are due to pneumonia (89 per cent), meningitis (6 per cent) and other serious complications (5 per cent). Around 90 per cent of deaths occur in developing countries. In Africa, two major risk factors are HIV/AIDS and drepanocytaemia (sickle-cell anaemia).
Burundi is one of a handful of African nations to take this step forward. The pneumococcal vaccine is already being administered in developed countries with significant results in the reduction of the number of cases of pneumonia and pneumococcal.
“Immunization is neither a favor nor a privilege that only certain children have the chance to receive,” said Mr. Diabate. “Immunization is a right to be fulfilled for all children in the world.”
UNICEF is operating in the field in more than 150 countries and territories worldwide to help children to survive and develop, from their tender age up to the end of the adolescent age. As the world’s leading supplier of vaccines to developing countries, UNICEF supports the health and nutrition of children, their access to water and sanitation facilities, quality basic education for all boys and girls and protection of children against violence, all forms of exploitation and AIDS. UNICEF is fully funded through voluntary contributions from individuals, enterprises, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org.
For more information, please contact:
Anne-Isabelle Leclercq, UNICEF Burundi
Tel + 257 22 20 20 80 / +257 79 948 118