How can we ensure that vaccines reach those who need them the most? Efforts to fully realize the potential of vaccines – the best buy in public health – saw a turning point in 2010, when leaders in global health, such as the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, GAVI Alliance, NIAID, UNICEF and WHO, joined a call by Bill & Melinda Gates for the next ten years to be the Decade of Vaccines (DoV), to extend the benefits of immunization to all people.
The Decade of Vaccines (DoV) Collaboration is working to develop an action plan – the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) – for how the international community can best use vaccines to save lives. It’s an unprecedented effort. We are reaching out to experts from across the world, to gather valuable insights in the areas of research & development, delivery, public and political support, and access to vaccines. We want our action plan to enable families, communities and nations to guard against the most common infectious diseases throughout an individual’s life course.
Civil society, national governments, multilateral and bilateral organizations, industry, academia, and other stakeholders with a vital interest in vaccination and public health are all contributing with insights to help us realize the DoV vision, to save the lives of more than 8 million children by 2020.
The first countries’ consultation took place in Windhoek, Namibia, on 8 December, where we had a DoV Collaboration consultation session as part of the 3rd Annual Regional Conference on Immunization (ARCI), with approximately 180 stakeholders, including country representatives, civil society, research institutions, the private sector and donors from the African region. The consultation provided valuable input to the GVAP and, in particular, specific suggestions on how to make progress at the national level and improve accountability in the years to come.
Roundtable discussions during the DoV Collaboration consultation in Windhoek, Namibia, December 2011
We heard a number of challenges and potential ways to overcome them – from strengthening the evidence base of the value of vaccines, to ensuring the integration of immunization systems into strengthened health systems, building capacity and ensuring the right human resources are in place, establishing monitoring services at national and local levels – and much more. One topic that particularly struck me was the importance of taking advantage of community structures to enhance communication and deliver services locally. This will likely not only help improve access to hard-to-reach populations, but it also presents a distinct opportunity for countries to engage in a vaccine action plan beyond their governments, and encourage ownership at all levels.
This is but the beginning of the consultation process. Our next regional consultation event for Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa will take place in Rabat, Morocco, on 25-26 January, and a briefing meeting has also been planned by UNICEF in New York City on 19 January. In addition, we will shortly make the GVAP available on our website for online consultation.
Now is the time for bold action on immunization. New vaccines, like those for rotavirus and pneumonia, 2 leading killers of children, are being rolled out, and future vaccines for deadly diseases such as malaria are on the horizon.
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