|The power of immunization|
|Data briefs: Progress and disparity|
Plans to save more children with Hib vaccine
Every year, a shocking 400,000 children die from pneumonia and meningitis because the 43 developing countries in which they live lack resources to add the life-saving Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccine to routine immunization programmes.
A priority objective of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) of which UNICEF is a member is to have at least half of eligible Hib-endemic countries introduce the Hib vaccine by 2005. First in line are 26 poor countries, selected on the basis of three criteria: per capita incomes under $1,000; DPT3 immunization coverage of 50% or more (indicating the capacity to deliver the vaccine); and populations under 150 million. Another 17 countries will become eligible if their DPT3 coverage improves.
Pneumonia and meningitis primarily affect children under five years old; the most vulnerable are those between 4 months and 18 months of age. Up to 20% of children who survive Hib meningitis are at risk of permanent neurological disability, including brain damage, hearing loss and mental retardation.
Hib vaccine (there are several types) was introduced in the early 1990s and is now a part of many industrialized and other countries immunization programmes. The vaccine is among the safest of all vaccines and provides 95% protection for infants who are fully immunized.