4 million deaths averted in 2009 through its efforts, GAVI Alliance says

New data, released by the GAVI Alliance this week, shows that by the end of 2009 more than 4 million premature deaths caused by pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B will be prevented through GAVI support.

“We have now vaccinated 256 million children in the poorest countries through GAVI support. The number of deaths averted as a result vindicates the decision we made 10 years ago to create a unified effort to speed new and underused vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable children,” said Daisy Mafubelu, Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health at the World Health Organization.

“The challenge we face, particularly in the midst of the financial crisis, is to maintain and extend our gains with basic vaccines while ensuring that new life-saving innovations are made widely available in the developing world — especially new vaccines against pneumococcus and rotavirus, the leading causes of pneumonia and diarrhea mortality respectively.”

At the GAVI Partners’ Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, board chairwoman Mary Robinson noted that progress in immunization coverage and price decline must be tempered by the fact that more than 20 million children in the world today continue to go without basic life-saving vaccines.

“Our alliance is not providing charity but rather securing a basic human right, which is the right to equal access to basic standards of health,” said the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, noting that this week the world is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“It is time to recognize that the availability of life-saving vaccines for children worldwide, regardless of where they live, is not a luxury but a fundamental right.”

The forum brought together about 400 immunization experts, including ministers of health from more than 30 countries and representatives from donor countries, civil society, industry, and development and research agencies.

The GAVI Alliance is a Geneva-based public-private partnership aimed at improving health in the world’s poorest countries. The alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialized and developing countries, research and technical agencies, nongovernmental organizations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.