As part of European Immunisation Week, Member of the European Parliament Mary Honeyball explains why we need to re-dedicate ourselves to ensuring equitable coverage of vaccines everywhere in the world.
Saturday marked the beginning of European Immunisation Week. Organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) it provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of immunising children against deadly diseases.
Vaccines and immunisations are a powerful tool in which to save vulnerable children’s lives. But how programmes are funded can vary. Sustainable aid for organisations responsible for the delivery of immunisation programmes, such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), needs our continued support.
In January this year Bill Gates visited the European Parliament and talked about the positive effect that aid has had in developing countries. More specifically he spoke of the positive impact immunisation programmes have had in developing countries.
His figures indicated that between 2000 and 2008 measles deaths fell by 78% while cases of polio have fallen by around 99% since the late 1980s. Over a period of five years (2004-2009), aid from the EU is estimated to have helped vaccinate five million children against measles.
But there is much work still to be done and we must not lose sight of this.
Eunice, head nurse at Lagata Health Facility in Kenya, gives a baby the pneumococcal vaccine
Following a big push in the 1980s, pressure to ensure that all children were immunised against vaccine preventable diseases plateaued. Demographically 20% of children are still missing as a result of lack of access.
We now need to re-dedicate ourselves to ensuring equitable coverage of vaccines everywhere in the world. GAVI, which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been commended for the ‘value for money’ and efficacy of its work in this area.
I know from personal experience just how important and what a difference vaccination programmes can have as I was one of the first children in the UK to benefit from the mass vaccination programmes.
In my written declaration (4/2012) on vaccines and immunisation, which is open for MEPs to sign until the 10 May 2012, I call on the European Commission to continue funding the fight against vaccine preventable diseases. The declaration urges for ‘the Commission to make a continued commitment to reducing the number of vaccine-preventable deaths in its future external actions.’
Just a brief glance at some of the statistics is enough to highlight the importance of immunisation programmes:
Immunisation prevents between two-three million deaths every year in all age groups from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps and rubella.
About 19.3 million infants did not receive the basic vaccine against diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis in 2010. Nearly 70% of these children live in ten countries: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and Uganda.
An estimated 1.7 million children died from vaccine-preventable diseases in 2008 before reaching their fifth birthday.
Due to polio eradication efforts, over eight million people are walking today who would otherwise be paralysed, and the incidence of polio has declined by 99.8%.
We must ensure enough funding is secured to protect and support those who provide vaccinations and that vulnerable lives of children are saved across the world.
Mary Honeyball is a London Member of the European Parliament and is the Labour spokesperson on Women, culture media and sport. Visit her website at thehoneyballbuzz.com and follow her on Twitter.
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