May 13th, 2013 4:19 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Our guest blogger today is the MTV Africa VJ, singer and activist from Tanzania, Vanessa Mdee. Writing as an ambassador for the GAVI Alliance, her post celebrates the recent news that the HPV vaccine to protect women and girls from cervical cancer is set to drop in price for 50 of the world’s poorest countries.
I’m trying to think of the first time my mother had ‘The Talk’ (yes the birds and the bees talk) with me. The talk that I’d heard my friends refer to as the most embarrassing moment of their lives, the talk that officially indicted you into teen-hood, the talk that signified your maturity – your parents decided you were old enough to speak of natural human interaction between a man and a woman. I’m still eagerly awaiting this talk.
Now don’t be fooled, my mother knows all too well that I’m aware of physical interaction. Not because I told her but because she’s got that sixth sense like all mothers do. Besides, I am of age and slightly adventurous (for lack of a better word).
I gather I never put my parents in a place where they felt the need to have this conversation with me. I did after all grow up in a Muslim turned every Sunday church-going Roman Catholic home – where I obviously wasn’t having sex. My parents were right – not because I was holier than the next but the mere thought of them finding out crippled me. You see, growing up in an African home as exposed and worldly as my upbringing was, meant certain things were not discussed. This remains the case to date. My line of work has allowed me to converse intimately with young African women and girls, and their stories are similar. Sex talk is a no go.
When I started DynamitesMission – my awareness blog sponsored by UNAIDS and MTV’s Staying Alive – I wanted to lend my voice and extend my ear to the streets. I was learning about grassroots organisations and their efforts to educate their communities. I was moved and in turn spoke from my perspective – pretty layman but clear to other laymen.
A year in, I get a BBM from one of my best friends Michelle. It read, ‘ You’re trying to tell me that above all the heartache we take from these men, they also pass HPV (the virus that causes cervical cancer) to us?’ – I chuckled and said ‘ Yes Elle, they do – talk about short end of the stick’. Many women are unaware of cervical cancer and HPV, mostly about how exposed we are to the virus through our everyday interaction.
My first personal encounter with cervical cancer was in my early teens. My aunt was diagnosed with it at a very late stage and when her health deteriorated I remember wondering what she had done to deserve this and why the meds weren’t working. I kept asking my father – why she wasn’t getting better. Only to properly understand the severity as she passed away after being bed ridden for two weeks.
When a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer in Tanzania there is a 70% chance she will not survive. Experts agree that the low survival rate is due to late diagnosis and treatment by a healthcare provider. It wasn’t until I was approached by GAVI that I found out that there now is a vaccine and that if administered early (before young women become sexually active) then we can ensure a brighter future for our women and decrease the numbers of cervical cancer cases.
Young women need to be aware of these opportunities that can be availed but most importantly the knowledge of HPV and cervical cancer – I truly believe these formative years will define their sexual reproductive health and nurture a generation of healthier women. It starts with open communication about sex and sexual reproductive health.
2013 is the beginning of a dramatic shift in women’s health. A record low price for a HPV vaccine has been negotiated by GAVI for the 50+ countries eligible for GAVI support (including my home country, Tanzania), opening the door for millions of girls in the world’s poorest countries to be immunized against a devastating women’s cancer.
This not only is the beginning of a shift in the overall eradication of cervical cancer but a new dawn for young African women around the continent. An opportunity that myself and many other young African women did not have.
It breaks my heart to see lives cut short due to ailments. In Africa these losses happen often and deprive our societies. It’s about time proper healthcare is administered for all, especially the future generation. GAVI is making this possible by pioneering the administration of the HPV vaccine. Giving my younger sisters a chance – that’s one less killer to worry about.
Find out more about the great news on the price drop for HPV vaccines on the GAVI Alliance website.
Apr 18th, 2013 2:47 PM UTC
By Katri Kemppainen-Bertram
Today the GAVI Alliance announced that the cost of immunising millions of the world’s most vulnerable children against five deadly and debilitating diseases is set to fall, thanks to a major price reduction of one third for pentavalent vaccine.
Pentavalent vaccines target five infectious diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and influenzae type B) in a single shot.
GAVI, which uses an innovative public-private partnership model to introduce new and affordable vaccines to children in particular in the poorest countries, secured a supply agreement with Biological E Ltd of India, which makes the five-in-one shot available to GAVI for just US$1.19 per dose, compared to the 2012 price of US$2.17.
By the end of the year, an additional 200 million children will be protected from five deadly diseases, and US$ 150mn will be saved over the next four years. By 2020, more than 7 million deaths can this way be averted.
Back in 2011, ONE members played an important part in ensuring that donors gave GAVI the funding it needed for its 2011-15 funding cycle. Having ensured this funding is a feat in itself, but the rewards – millions of lives saved – is an achievement worth celebrating. Thank you!
The announcement comes shortly before the Global Vaccine Summit that will be held in Abu Dhabi on 24-25 April, during World Immunisation Week. We’ll be sharing at the latest news from the summit next week, plus featuring stories from all our partners working on the front line of vaccinations around the world.
Dec 6th, 2012 2:12 PM UTC
By Malaka Gharib
Malaka Gharib is currently at the GAVI Partners Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where global health and government leaders are gathering to explore ways to accelerate results, innovation, sustainability and equity in the field of immunization.
What do you think one of the biggest issues in vaccines and immunizations is? That’s an easy one, right? Making sure that every country in the world has access to vaccines, of course!
Well, actually, we achieved universal child immunization – way back in 1990. Thanks to collaboration between WHO, UNICEF, countries and suppliers, a system was put in place to bring immunization coverage to nearly 80 percent of the global birth cohort. And it’s a system that’s worked well for a long time.
But now, that system is breaking down. The GAVI Alliance reports that 9 of the 24 countries in which they operate have poor vaccine stock management and vaccine distribution. And more than 20 percent of the GAVI countries’ vaccines go to waste above the expected rate.
It’s not hard to see why. The introduction of new vaccines and increased coverage targets is putting “business as usual” at risk. Since the 1980s, kids need 3 times more vaccine doses per child and there are 2.5 times more diseases to vaccinate. Looking into the future, experts believe that we’ll need 4 times more fridges (vaccines need to stay cold) between 2001 and 2020.
The conversation now is about how to make the system better, how to make transport of vaccines more reliable, and how to protect and preserve vaccines. The solution that experts are proposing is a clear one: countries need to take ownership of their vaccine supply chain (also called the “cold chain,” since vaccines are temperature-controlled). And they need to be super creative about it, because every country has its own situation and infrastructure – it can’t be a one-size-fits all strategy.
I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to supply chain experts like Michel Zaffran from the World Health Organization, Dmitri Davydov from UNICEF and Dr. Bruce Lee from the University of Pittsburgh, and country health officials from Benin, Tanzania and Uganda discuss this issue at the GAVI Partners Forum yesterday. I was particularly interested in listening to some of the innovative ways that countries were tackling some of the challenges with their vaccine supply chain.
- Hon. Huda Oleru from Uganda’s Parliamentary Forum for Immunization, says that they’re using an SMS tool called U-Report to crowdsource problems with the vaccines distribution system from Ugandan citizens. She says that her team is using the feedback to learn about some of the holes in the Ugandan supply chain – and fix them.
- Dr. Bruce Lee leads the team that developed a software called HERMES, a computational tool to design, plan and manage vaccine supply chains. What’s neat about it is that it can even predict estimated future needs, which will help in reducing vaccine wastage, stock outs and problems with storage. Currently, it’s being tested in Benin, Thailand and Niger.
- The World Health Organization, GAVI, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are finding that the cold chain itself is a barrier to routine immunizations – and it’s not getting the funding it needs. The world needs to invest more in cold chain hardware, like fridges and packaging. And there’s some cool stuff that they’re looking at on the horizon, including solar-powered fridges and vacuum insulation that lasts for up to 30 days.
ONE members fought hard last year to make sure that world leaders gave GAVI the funding it needed for their pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines – and we succeeded. But now, it’s up to countries to ensure that these much-needed vaccines actually get to the people who need it most. There will be more vaccines to distribute and more people to immunize in the future – and if countries can find the holes now, strengthen their supply chain and invest in technologies, we can achieve GAVI Board Chair Dagfinn Hoybraten’s one wish for the world: “that the children may live.”
Follow @ONEinAfrica and #GAVIPartners for live tweets from the GAVI Partners Forum.
Dec 3rd, 2012 10:41 AM UTC
By ONE Partners
The following is a guest blog from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Board Chair Dagfinn Hoybraten
As I was writing my new book, my granddaughter of 6 asked me what I was up to. I am writing my book, I said. What is it on? She asked. On what grandpa thinks is most important. Do you know what grandpa thinks is most important? That the children may live, she replayed with a big smile.
She is so right, and that is also the common goal behind the efforts of the partners working together in the GAVI Alliance: That the children may live.
What would it take to protect a child against five diseases with a single vaccine in a country like Haiti, which is still rebuilding after the devastating 2010 earthquake? Or to bring vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhoea, two of the biggest killers of children in developing countries, to places such as Pakistan and Yemen? Or to target Africa’s meningitis belt by reaching 100 million people less than two years into a mass vaccination campaign?
It takes partnership, and the belief that by working together those of us who are passionate about saving lives and improving health can accomplish much more than we could on our own. Since 2000, GAVI has been able to save more than 5 million lives and will work to save an additional 4 million by 2015. This is possible by working as an alliance whose partners include UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, governments and pharmaceutical companies in the developed and developing worlds, research institutes, and civil society and advocacy organisations such as ONE and many others.
Later this week, more than 600 global health leaders will come together in Dar es Salaam for the GAVI Alliance Partners’ Forum. The United Republic of Tanzania is the perfect place for this three-day event, which will include a dual introduction of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines and discussions aimed at advancing access to vaccines and immunisation. In 2010 pneumonia accounted for 15% of child mortality in Tanzania, according to the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. And yet, according to 2011 estimates from WHO and UNICEF, Tanzania’s vaccine coverage rate against key causes of child pneumonia meet or exceed targets that if adopted worldwide could prevent two-thirds of child pneumonia deaths.
GAVI’s mission underscores the themes of the Partners’ Forum, which are Results, Innovation, Sustainability and Equity (RISE). Those who are unable to join us in Tanzania can follow the conversation on the GAVI website, where we’ll be streaming some of the sessions, and on Twitter at #GAVIpartners.
The results of our work lie not only in the number of lives saved or lives we hope to save but in the fact that an additional 370 million children in the world’s poorest countries now have an opportunity to grow up healthy and contribute to their communities. Innovation is at the heart of what makes vaccines one of the most cost-effective ways to save lives. GAVI uses several funding mechanisms to raise funds in international capital markets and stimulate the development and supply of vaccines to make them affordable for developing countries. By using these tools to shape vaccine markets and lower costs, countries are able to sustain their commitment to providing immunisation after they graduate from GAVI support. Even the world’s poorest countries take pride in contributing to the cost of their vaccines. This reinforces the fact that they are equal partners in this effort. Equity drives a central goal of our work to dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes for vaccines to reach poorer countries after they’re introduced in wealthier countries. Just 20 years ago, this would not have seemed possible.
I’m excited to leave Tanzania after several days of discussion and debate further inspired by what can be achieved when we come together in partnership.
Submit your questions on vaccine distribution, financing and more by leaving a comment in the Facebook event.
Aug 22nd, 2012 10:24 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
By GAVI Alliance Deputy CEO Helen Evans
I am looking forward to participating in the 2012 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, to be held in Montreal, Canada on August 27. This will be an opportunity to take stock of where the world is with regards to cancer prevention and treatment and to learn more about action to address the existing challenges to eliminating cancer as a life-threatening disease for future generations.
Teenage girls walk home from school in Makeni, Sierra Leone. Every year, some 270,000 women die from cervical cancer and another 500,000 receive a new diagnosis, mainly in developing countries. Safe and effective HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines are available that can prevent 70% of cervical cancer cases. Source: Olivier Asselin/GAVI/2009.
Leaders from the health, government, philanthropic and corporate sectors will come together to discuss innovative ways of reversing the global cancer epidemic and I am excited to be part of this.
Since 2000, the GAVI Alliance has made great strides in supporting low-income countries in tackling leading child killers, such as pneumonia and diarrhea, by accelerating the roll-out of new and under-used vaccines.
When it comes to cancer prevention, I am happy to say that GAVI is also making a difference on this front. By accelerating the introduction of hepatitis B vaccines in developing countries since 2000, GAVI has helped prevent an estimated 3.7 million deaths from liver cancer (caused by hepatitis B).
GAVI’s success in rolling out the hepatitis B vaccine, the first anti-cancer vaccine, can now be potentially replicated with vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer.
Women in developing countries often have little or no access to screening or treatment for cervical cancer so a vaccine that prevents HPV is even more important.
GAVI’s support for HPV vaccines will help protect tens of millions of girls from cervical cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in poor countries. What is most disturbing about this cancer is that it hits women in their forties and fifties when their contribution to families and childrearing is most important. And the children left behind are not only robbed of their mother but all too often have a lower chance of getting a good education and receiving adequate healthcare.
As long as GAVI can secure affordable prices from manufacturers, we expect to begin providing the vaccines to GAVI-eligible countries ready to roll them out nationally as early as 2013. Countries applying for GAVI support to run a more focused HVP demonstration project also need to show that their HPV roll-out strategy to vaccinate girls aged 9 to 13 is integrated as part of a national cancer prevention and screening plan.
With the growing focus on cervical cancer prevention, I am very hopeful that the GAVI Alliance will contribute by preventing millions of cervical cancer deaths through vaccination and ensuring that all women, wherever they are born, can be protected from this horrible cancer.
Read more posts from GAVI on the ONE Blog here.
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