SEATTLE — From foreign-assisted programs to government-funded projects in the health sector, vaccination has been one of the most effective and powerful health interventions with notable outcomes around the world. Not only do they reduce diseases and mortality, but they also leave a positive impact on a country’s economy in the long run. Given the effectiveness of vaccines in health sector interventions, global emphasis on vaccination has increased over the years, rightfully so.
WHO’s 2019-2023 Plan
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) new five-year plan from 2019 to 2023 is aiming for an ambitious target of triple billion in terms of ensuring increased universal health care coverage, protection from health emergencies and better health and wellbeing, with an increment of one billion more people in each of these sectors. In order to do so, it has recognized 10 priority areas to focus on, one of which is vaccination. WHO will also increase its coverage of the HPV vaccine worldwide in 2019, in order to eliminate cervical cancer. WHO and its partners are also going to work on mitigating the transmission of wild poliovirus.
Gavi and Mastercard Cooperation
On December 11, 2018, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Mastercard, announced that these two organizations would be joining forces to increase vaccination program coverage. Given the lack of information regarding a child’s immunization record and the inability of health care providers to remind patients of follow-up appointments, Mastercard would provide the means to ensure proper maintenance of immunization records.
The implementation plan for this partnership includes allowing health ministries and authorized health care providers to issue a card to each child’s caregiver after receiving immunization, which would contain the digital immunization record. Not only would it allow caregivers and health care providers to keep track of immunization, but it will also help governments analyze and understand their immunization needs better. The program will start with a few countries for a span of two years and then expand to other Gavi supported countries, reflecting a growing increase in global emphasis on vaccination.
Actions in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia
A major typhoid vaccination campaign, funded by Gavi, and additionally the WHO, will target to vaccinate around 325,000 people, using the new typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV), in nine suburbs of Harare, Zimbabwe, following the second wave of major typhoid breakout in September 2018. The campaign is expected to last until 4 March 2019 and will aim for children aged 6 months to 15-year-olds, as well as adults in certain areas. The government of Zimbabwe is now working on including TCV in its regular immunization schedule in the country.
Integrating different vaccines into a country’s routine immunization program, in collaboration with other development partners, not only shows the global emphasis on vaccination but also the emphasis governments of these countries are placing on creating comprehensive vaccination programs. Ethiopia has recently introduced measles vaccine second dose (MCV2) into its routine immunization program, with the help of Gavi and WHO. Given the annual outbreaks of measles in Ethiopia, this addition to the national immunization program would provide around 3.3 million children MCV2 on an annual basis, allowing health interventions to be more effective in the country and reducing child mortality. The country needs to increase its coverage to 96 percent for both doses of measles vaccines, in order to prevent these outbreaks.
Donations to Vaccination Coverage
Recently, Iceland has, for the first time, pledged $1 million to Gavi, to immunize children in Malawi. This support will span over three years, until 2021, and it will not only increase the vaccination coverage but also expand the access to newer vaccines for cervical cancer, pneumonia, diarrhea and others in Malawi. South Korea, through its Global Disease Eradication Fund, has also pledged $15 million to Gavi, to vaccinate children in 68 of the poorest countries in Africa and Asia. This assistance will span over three years, from 2019 to 2021 and provide vaccines against diseases that are leading causes of death such as pneumonia, diarrhea and measles.
Countries and organizations pledging their assistance towards increased immunization of children show the global emphasis on vaccination right now. However, it should also be noted that despite growing emphasis being placed on vaccination by different countries, there has also been a rise in anti-vaccine sentiment or vaccine hesitancy, due to a lot of misinformation. Therefore, the focus should also be put on eliminating misinformation about vaccines in order for these global efforts to be fully successful.
– Farihah Tasneem