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 The power of immunization
  
 Commentary: New agenda for vaccines
     

A clear and common enemy

Copyright© UNICEF/98-1048/Pirozzi
A child in Yemen receives drops of the oral polio vaccine. The disease is being pushed to the brink of eradication; Globally, there were about 7,000 confirmed cases in 1999.

The chasm between what we are capable of and what we actually do to protect all children everywhere needs to be bridged before it grows any wider.

It is, of course, very possible to extend the proven power of immunization to all the world’s children, and the resources needed to do so can be found.

A commitment of $750 million over five years by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation led to the development of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). GAVI is an international partnership created to improve access to sustainable immunization services, expand vaccine production and use, accelerate vaccine development, improve the quality of vaccines and delivery mechanisms and make immunization an integral part of health systems and development efforts.

It is an all-star line-up of the major organizations in the immunization field, among them members of the vaccine industry, foundations, national and local governments and NGOs, and organizations such as UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank. A major thrust of the Initiative is the Global Fund for Children’s Vaccines made possible by the Gates grant, which will be used to buy hepatitis B, Hib and other under-utilized vaccines.

UNICEF, which has long been the main vaccine supplier for developing countries, has taken the lead in ensuring that vaccine financing is sustainable. The goal of the UNICEF-driven Vaccine Independence Initiative is to have countries that can afford vaccines pay for them so that funding is freed to purchase new and existing vaccines for very poor countries.

These efforts fully recognize the enormous benefits of vaccines, the power of immunization and the effectiveness of collaboration among governments, NGOs, private sector and international organizations. Taken together, they provide new hope that the world will overcome the impediments of war, poverty and mismanagement and make victory certain over the one clear and common enemy against which the entire world can and must unite – diseases that needlessly kill children.

 
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