Pneumococcal Vaccine now available free of charge for all children in Congo
Brazzaville, 11 October 2012 – The Republic of Congo has taken big step in improving children’s health by introducing a new vaccine against pneumonia, one of the leading child killers in developing countries. Congo is the 15th country in sub-Saharan African to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine in its Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI).
Each year in Africa pneumonia kills virtually half of children under the age of 5. In Congo, the disease represents roughly 14 % of child mortality, which makes it the second cause of mortality in this age range after malaria.
At today’s official launch ceremony, held at the Health Centre Marien Ngouabi, Mrs Antoniette Sassou Ngesso, the First Lady of the Republic of Congo, and Mr François Ibovi, Minister of Health and Population, vaccinated a few young children with the first dose of the pneumococcal vaccine. « Following the epidemics of poliomyelitis and measles faced by our Country, the Government of Congo put vaccination on top of the national priorities in 2012, declaring it the Year of Health», affirmed the Ministry of Health, Mr. François Ibovi.
The ceremony was also attended by Ms. Marianne Flach, UNICEF Representative in Congo, who spoke on behalf of the United Nations System and the GAVI Alliance. The Italian Ambassador in Congo, and other national authorities and international donors also participated in the launch. “Thanks to this new vaccine, Congo can save the lives of numerous young children who die each year because of the pneumococcal infection”, stated Ms. Marianne Flach, who also highlighted the essential role played by GAVI and its donors in vaccines’ funding.
According to Dr Youssouf Gamatié, WHO Representative in Congo, “The introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine will be supported by the implementation of medical sample control sites and the impact evaluation of these new vaccines’ introduction”.
The funds donated by GAVI and its partners, coupled with UNICEF’s and WHO’s support, helped the Government of the Republic of Congo to ensure that all children in the Country, including the most vulnerable ones, can receive the new vaccine free of charge and be protected against pneumonia. In addition, the cold chain was strengthened to ensure that all the health centers are capable of stocking and preserving the new vaccine that will be administered to all children between 2 and 11 months.
Congo is one of the 20 countries financially supported by the GAVI Alliance to introduce this vaccine. By 2015, GAVI aims to support the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine in 45 developing countries.
The Italian Ambassador in Congo, who spoke on behalf of GAVI’s Advance Market Commmitment donors said: “It is my most sincere wish that this date marks the beginning of an attentive control over infections caused by the pneumococcal infection, of which too many children pay with their life in the entire world and in Congo in particular.”
The pneumococcal vaccine is available in Congo thanks to GAVI’s innovative Advance Market Commitment (AMC). The AMC provides incentives for manufacturers to produce large quantities of pneumococcal vaccine which can then reach developing countries as much as a decade earlier than they historically would have done. The AMC is funded by Canada, Italy, Norway, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine is a historical step in the Congolese fight for reducing child mortality. Each year, more than 10 000 children in Congo will not survive past the age of 5. This vaccine represents a major public health intervention, eradicating one of the most fatal childhood diseases with a routine vaccination. The active engagement of the Congolese community in favoring and respecting the immunization for their children within the vaccine calendar represents an essential pillar for improving child health and survival.
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