Vaccinations for all: great progress but much more to do

A mother holds her son as he is vaccinated at a health clinic in Totota, Liberia.
A mother holds her son as he is vaccinated at a health clinic in Totota, Liberia. (Photo: Jane Hahn/Panos)

The last two decades have seen a huge drop in child mortality globally – from 12.6 million deaths in children under five in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. This has brought many countries closer to reaching the UN millennium goal of cutting the under-5 child mortality rate by two thirds.

The world is even closer to ending all preventable child deaths.

Expanding access to immunisation and broader health services has been – and will continue to be – critical to this. Since 1990, we’ve seen great progress in expanding vaccination coverage globally, from 76% to 83% last year. This means that more and more children are benefiting from one of the most successful and cost-effective health investments for child survival.

The final fifth

However, 1 in 5 children are still denied their right to this and other essential health services. These children are from the poorest households, the most remote areas, and the most marginalised groups. This is a grave injustice that must be addressed.

Countries have a responsibility to ensure that all children have access to immunisation and other basic health services. And the global community must support countries in their efforts to do so.

The GAVI Alliance works with governments, civil society and other partners to increase access to immunisation in poor countries and this year marks the midpoint in GAVI’s current 2011-2015 strategy.

Halfway there

To check that everything is on track GAVI is bringing partners together in Stockholm, Sweden today and tomorrow to assess delivery on commitments made in 2011, at a pledging conference, and to further assess the progress made towards achieving the 2011–2015 strategic goals.

Save the Children has carried out its own independent accountability check on GAVI and partners’ performance in Halfway there: Delivering on the promise of immunization for all.

Significant progress has clearly been made since 2011. It has been estimated that 97 million additional children have so far been immunised thanks to GAVI support, averting 1.1 million future deaths.

More to do

Godwin is one of those 97 million children. Like most children now born in Ghana, he has been vaccinated against a number of preventable diseases, including pneumococcal disease and rotavirus. GAVI’s support to Ghana has helped it to introduce these new vaccines and strengthen the country’s overall immunisation and health system.

But much more needs to be done to ensure that immunisation and broader health services reach all children. GAVI and its partners must fulfil the commitments they made at the GAVI Pledging Conference in 2011 and their obligations to realise GAVI’s strategy.

This is a unique opportunity to help the countries supported by the Alliance to accelerate progress towards their millennium development goal (MDG) targets. But with less than a year and a half before the MDG deadline, time is of the essence.

We must all work together to accelerate progress towards the shared goal of ensuring that all children enjoy the full benefits of immunisation and broader health care. Every child deserves a fair chance to survive beyond their fifth birthday and we all have the ultimate responsibility of making that a reality.

 

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