NEW YORK, 18 January 2005 – A new strategy for immunization, which will help focus unprecedented global attention on the importance of this basic health measure, was the focus for discussion today at the current Session of the UNICEF Executive Board.
The ten-year Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (GIVS), being developed by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), will make “a very major contribution” to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halving child deaths from disease by 2015 according to UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam.
“Immunization and other related interventions will be an important contribution to the sustainable achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and thus benefit even greater numbers of children and mothers,” he said at today’s meeting.
The proposed strategy drew several questions from delegates about how it would fit in with existing programmes such as the Global Alliance of Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the International Finance Facility (IFF) which provides financing for immunization.
“This strategy will serve as the overall framework for everybody,” Mr. Gautam said. “GAVI, UNICEF, WHO and IFF will be guided by this document. This is the overarching document.”
In response to a comment from the Norwegian delegation that the proposal was “strong on the ‘whats’ but says little about the ‘hows’,” Mr. Gautam said that the ‘hows’ would need to be adapted for each country.
The initiative will solicit contributions from governments and the private sector, and will encourage commitment to immunization on national and local levels.
Mr. Gautam told delegates that the proposed strategy would concentrate on increasing access to immunization for underserved populations, introducing new vaccines and technology, linking immunization to other health services such as Vitamin A and insecticide treated bednets and, where necessary, combining immunization with better training for health care providers.
The proposed strategy will also build on the achievements of ‘immunization plus’.
UNICEF Chief of Health Dr. Pascale Villeneuve told delegates that, although 85 per cent of all UNICEF-assisted countries had developed an immunization plan by 2003 and routine immunization has benefited about three quarters of the world’s children, there are still more than 27 million children who are not being reached.
“Unless this gap is closed, two million children under five years of age will die every year from preventable diseases for which vaccines are available or will be available,” he said.
“On the whole the ‘immunization plus’ strategy works and works well,” Mr Gautam said. But he added that the new strategy will protect a greater number of children from disease.