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Burundi, 22 September 2011: Introduction of the new vaccine against pneumococcus

Joint UNICEF-World Health Organization press release

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, 22 September 2011 – Burundi intensifies its efforts in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases, through the introduction of the new pneumococcal vaccine under the national vaccination programme.

September 20, 2011 marked the launch of the new vaccine in Burundi with an official ceremony organised in the province of Kayanza. The vaccine against pneumococcal disease will be introduced into the routine vaccination calendar under the national Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) for 320,000 children under 11 months, which also includes other vaccines such as BCG for tuberculosis, polio vaccine, and a combined pentavalent against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus type b (Hib). This initiative is supported by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and its members UNICEF and WHO.

“Immunization is an invaluable investment for the country, for the health of our children, the well-being of our families and the economic growth of our country”, said Sabine Ntakarutimana, the Minister of Public Health and HIV/AIDS, during a social mobilization campaign, which calls upon the population to bring their infants for immunisation with the new vaccine. “Immunization is a right for children and the responsibility of parents.”

In Burundi, acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia and pneumococcal disease, constitute the second major cause of mortality among children under the age of five, according to epidemiological statistics from the Ministry of Health and HIV/AIDS. Globally, pneumococcal infection is responsible for over 500,000 child deaths every year.

“Of all the health interventions available, immunization is one the most efficient and cost-effective, savings millions of children in the world”, said Souleymane Diabate, acting UNICEF Representative in Burundi.

The deaths linked to pneumococcal infection are due to pneumonia (89 percent), meningitis (6 percent) and other serious complications (5 percent). Around 90 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. Main underlying causes in sub-Saharan Africa include HIV/AIDS and drepanocytaemia (sickle-cell anaemia).

Burundi is one of a handful of African nations to take this step forward. The pneumococcal vaccine is already being administered in developed countries with significant results in the reduction of the number of cases of pneumonia and pneumococcal disease.

“Immunization cannot be a favour nor a privilege only for some. Immunization is a right to be fulfilled for all children in the world,” said Mr. Diabate.


UNICEF is operating in the field in more than 150 countries and territories worldwide to help children to survive and develop, from their tender age up to the end of the adolescent age. As the world’s leading supplier of vaccines to developing countries, UNICEF supports the health and nutrition of children, their access to water and sanitation facilities, quality basic education for all boys and girls and protection of children against violence, all forms of exploitation and AIDS. UNICEF is fully funded through voluntary contributions from individuals, enterprises, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit:

For more information, please contact:

Anne-Isabelle Leclercq, UNICEF Burundi, +257 22 20 20 80 or +257 79 948 118,



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