In May 2005, WHO and UNICEF launched the Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (GIVS) for 2006-2015 in response to the challenges described above. The aims and component strategies of GIVS fall into four broad areas:
- Immunize more people against more diseases, through an appropriate mix of routine and campaign strategies, with unprecedented attention to targeting the unreached.
- Introduce a range of newly available vaccines and technologies, focusing on promoting their development and supporting countries in evaluating need, planning and establishing priorities, and obtaining the necessary financing.
- Provide a number of critical health interventions along with immunization, with emphasis on the role of immunization in strengthening health systems by building human resource capacity, improving logistics and securing financial resources.
- Achieve a secure, equitable supply of resources for immunization through collaboration among governments, international organizations, donors and vaccine manufacturers in both industrialized and developing countries.
Clearly, more resources are needed if such a vision is to be realized. About $1 billion was spent on routine immunization with traditional vaccines in 2000; that cost is expected to double by 2006, both because of the introduction of new vaccines and because of the push to reduce mortality further through expanded use of existing vaccines. By 2015, if all goals have been reached, it is estimated that the annual cost of immunization will be triple the 2006 figure - about $6 billion (15).
But what the world will gain in return for this investment - in terms of lives saved and disability avoided - is priceless. By 2015, immunization could be preventing 4 to 5 million child deaths each year (16).
The contributions of GAVI, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Measles Initiative, among other global partnerships, have already been acknowledged in this report card. Local governments, non-governmental organizations, traditional and religious leaders, and civil society organizations are critical allies on the ground, especially in efforts to reach the hard to reach, improve district performance, leverage resources and achieve optimum coordination.
Increasing the coverage of the existing and new vaccines that can contribute to reduced child mortality will continue to be a challenge both for the governments of developing countries and their partners in international organizations. But the challenge is by no means insurmountable. Now is not the time to balk at the extra cost of universal immunization but rather to seize on it as the most feasible, cost-effective way of reducing child deaths - thereby, bringing one of the key Millennium Development Goals within reach.