Yesterday, I had the honor of joining thousands of people in the town square of Kagawa District in West Java, Indonesia. Mothers, children, local and international policymakers and townspeople came together to at the posyandu (a community-based healthcare center) to celebrate the launch of a new pentavalent vaccine.
Bill Gates has said that vaccines are a miracle. This simple technology can do so much. Yet, making sure that vaccines are available, affordable and reach all those who need them is not as simple. There was a time not long ago when getting vaccines to those who need them most was very challenging. Not only did the vaccines take a long time to develop, they took even longer to deliver. As a result, millions of children died needlessly. I’m so glad that today, we get to tell a different story about vaccines – a story of progress, promise and partnership.
Yesterday's launch was remarkable and is testament to the progress we’re making as a global immunization and health community. Here are three reasons why:
First, this single vaccine protects children from five diseases that are responsible for preventable illness and death among young children. This represents an essential step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing under-five mortality rate by two thirds by 2015 – a goal which Indonesia is struggling but working hard to achieve.
Second, the vaccine is produced by BioFarma, a company owned by the Indonesian government. BioFarma supplies many vaccines for Indonesia’s national immunization program, and 123 countries around the world. Developing country manufacturers like BioFarma demonstrate local innovation and represent sustainability to the local - and global - vaccine supply.
Lastly, Indonesia is on track to graduate from financial support from the GAVI Alliance, the public-private partnership that finances vaccine delivery in the world’s poorest countries, at the end of 2016. In the meantime, rather than gradually scale-up its proportion of financing, Indonesia is straightaway splitting the costs of vaccine introduction with GAVI 50/50 starting this year. Country co-financing is one of the innovative elements of the GAVI model, and Indonesia is being proactive in assuming long-term self-financing for vaccines as a national health and development priority. This kind of country ownership helps reinforce donor confidence around their investments in global immunization.
So, as I looked on from the entrance of the posyandu, watching mothers take a tour of the health tent to have their little ones weighed, measured and receive the pentavalent vaccine, I couldn’t help but to be reminded that vaccines are indeed a miracle and so many are working together to make sure that these benefits reach those in need as soon as possible. The brief tears brought by the shot to the children’s eyes were replaced quickly by the amusement of a celebratory balloon or the delight of a cookie. And, and most importantly and completely unbeknownst to the children, a lifetime of protection.
Three years ago, Bill and Melinda Gates called for the next ten years to be the ‘Decade of Vaccines.’ The vision was that all people are reached with the vaccines they need. Yesterday in Kawaga District in West Java, Indonesia, we achieved a milestone in this Decade by giving more children a healthy start to life thanks to this new pentavalent vaccine.
To learn more about our global partners in immunization and how you can get inloved, visit: http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Features/Vaccine-Partners.