Uganda launches vaccine against pneumococcal disease
KAMPALA, Thursday, 25 April, 2013 – The Uganda Government today introduces a new vaccine that will potentially save up to 24,000 children who would otherwise succumb to pneumonia – the leading pneumococcal disease – every year. This year alone, health authorities will target over 1.4 million children with the new Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV), which also combats other life-threatening conditions like meningitis that often causes permanent mental disabilities and seizures for survivors.
Pneumococcal disease is one of the biggest killers of children below the age of five years globally.
“This is a defining moment for Uganda, as this new vaccine will not only save the lives of our children, but also contribute to their healthy growth and development in future,” says Dr. Christine Ondoa, Minister of Health in the Uganda Government.
“With the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine, we hope to achieve a significant reduction in infant mortality and, therefore, reaffirm our commitment to protect children in Uganda from dying needlessly from preventable killer diseases,” Minister Ondoa added.
The pneumococcal vaccine was made available in Uganda through funding from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), a partnership that brings together governments, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank and other key stakeholders. GAVI has provided over USD$ 26million in vaccines and related supplies, and an additional USD$ 1.34million to support operational costs around introduction of the vaccine including training, social mobilization, cold chain maintenance and supervision.
“Every child, no matter where he or she is born, should have the opportunity and the right to a healthy life, and vaccines are one of the best ways to provide that,” said Dr. Seth Berkely, Chief Executive Officer at the GAVI. “Pneumonia and diarrhea are the ‘forgotten killers’ – that are responsible for the highest death toll in young children,” Dr. Berkely added.
Pneumonia and meningitis kill up to 1.8 million children below the age of five years globally every year, with more than half these deaths in Africa, according to the World Health Organization, which also observes that preventing both diseases will contribute significantly to reducing infant and child mortality by 2015.
“We take the opportunity today of the official launch of the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine in the national immunization programme in Uganda to commemorate across the entire African region the third edition of the African Vaccination Week,” said Dr Luis G. Sambo, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Vaccination against pneumonia in Uganda will significantly boost the national efforts towards the attainment of the MDG-4 in the country”, Dr Sambo added.
The UN Resident Co-ordinator in Uganda, Mrs. Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, applauded GAVI for its significant contribution towards combatting pneumococcal disease in Uganda and the rest of the world. She noted that both UNICEF and the WHO would continue to work closely with the Government of Uganda towards the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
“The United Nations in Uganda greatly values our partnership with GAVI. We are committed to delivering as one UN, and will continue to work in collaboration with the Government of Uganda and other partners to avert needless deaths of children from preventable, immunisable diseases like pneumonia and meningitis,” said Eziakonwa- Onochie.
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Dr Maryse DUGUE (Ms.)
Anne Lydia SEKANDI (Ms.)