GAVI to support new pneumococcal vaccine campaign in Afghanistan

Afghanistan will soon begin vaccinating more than 1.2 million children against pneumococcal disease annually with support of the GAVI Alliance, GAVI announced on Saturday.

With the support of GAVI, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health will start to offer the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to all infants under one year of age. Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of pneumonia, which causes approximately 25 percent of deaths in children under the age of five in Afghanistan.

PCV will be available for free at all health facilities throughout Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is taking a big step towards securing a healthier future for its children," Seth Berkley, the CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said. "The addition of pneumococcal vaccine to the childhood immunization package will help protect the lives of the children who represent the country's future."

GAVI received strong support from its partners in the Middle East, including a campaign in United Arab Emirates to raise $125,000 for increased access to immunization in the world's poorest countries and a $100 million pledge to support immunization programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"In Afghanistan, a country which is of particular interest to the UAE because of its proximity and its perilous humanitarian and development situation, it is gratifying to note that the UAE contribution has enabled the vaccination of millions of children with both the five-in-one pentavalent and pneumococcal vaccines," Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, the minister of international cooperation and development in United Arab Emirates, said.

Approximately 30,000 children under five in Afghanistan die of pneumonia annually, with approximately 150,000 children affected by the disease each year.