Vaccines work to save and improve lives, which is why the global health community has united around the Decade of Vaccines, a vision and commitment to reach all people with the vaccines they need. To achieve that goal, health ministers gathered last May to endorse the Global Vaccine Action Plan, a roadmap for saving more than 20 million lives by 2020.
As we approach 2013, we’re well on our way.
Thanks to the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF, WHO, health experts, dedicated vaccinators and many others, vaccines are reaching more children, in more places, than ever before.
GAVI has reached almost 300 million children with vaccines and prevented more than 5.5 million deaths. And, in the past two years, in more than 20 developing countries, it has delivered millions of doses of two new vaccines to protect children from pneumonia and diarrhea, the two leading infectious causes of death for children under five.
Thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and dedicated workers in affected countries, we are closer than ever to eradicating polio, an early milestone in the Decade of Vaccines. Cases are at record lows, and with enough funding and political will we can end polio forever. The fight to end polio also can help to build routine immunization systems that will enable future generations to live healthy, productive lives free from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Now is the time to build on this momentum. That’s why we’re co-hosting a vaccine summit in Abu Dhabi in April. The summit will take place, appropriately enough, during World Immunization Week.
We view this summit as a powerful endorsement of the role that vaccines and immunization play in achieving global child health and development goals. One of the most incredible examples of the power vaccines have to change the world is how close we are to being able to declare the world polio-free. This year, the polio effort celebrated a major advancement in defeating this preventable disease when India was declared polio-free, outbreaks in previously polio-free countries were stopped and the number of polio cases in the world dropped dramatically from where it had been for almost 10 years, leaving us with the fewest number of cases in the fewest districts in the fewest countries. This success means that it is more important than ever that the world unites now to pledge its support to fully fund the GPEI’s five-year plan that will take us to the day when we can declare the end of polio. What an amazing gift to the world that will be. Ending polio will lead the way to ensuring that children living in hard-to-reach places also can benefit from other life-improving health and development resources.
We’re holding the summit in Abu Dhabi to recognize that Middle Eastern and Islamic countries are emerging as leaders in efforts to immunize children against polio and other diseases. In 2011, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, committed $50 million to polio eradication and vaccine delivery. And just last month, the Islamic Development Bank’s board approved an innovative financing mechanism to provide $227 million in polio financing to Pakistan.
This summit is only part of the work we must do to bring the benefits of immunization to everyone. This week, GAVI will hold its Partners’ Forum, bringing together diverse stakeholders to work through the toughest problems in vaccine delivery. Later in 2013, experts will set out a strategy for the polio endgame, and GAVI will report on its progress and success in rolling out a new generation of vaccines.
We’re committed to creating a world that reaps the benefits of reaching all children with the vaccines they need, and look forward to another seminal moment in the Decade of Vaccines.