Today Lord Paul Boateng is in Ghana, during World Immunization Week, to celebrate the country become the first African country to introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines at the same time, simultaneously tackling the leading causes of the world’s two biggest childhood killers – pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Globally, pneumonia and severe infant diarrhoea together take the lives of more than 2.7 million children under the age of five each year. In Ghana, these killer diseases together account for approximately 20% of the country’s under-five child mortality.
Lord Boateng visited the country where he grew up and where more than 50 years ago he received an inoculation against Polio, which is now eradicated in Ghana. Lord Boateng was attending the official roll out ceremony today for the vaccines along with other dignitaries including Ghana’s First Lady H.E. Dr Ernestina Naadu Mills, Ghana’s Minister of Health Hon. M Alban S. K. Bagbin, GAVI Alliance CEO Dr Seth Berkley, WHO Deputy Director General Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, UNICEF Country Representative Dr Iyabode Olusanmi and other international guests at a special ceremony in Accra, where the first doses of the vaccines were administered to children. Hundreds of participants gathered to celebrate this historic milestone in public health.
“I have seen firsthand in Ghana the product of a next generation initiative, the Advanced Market Commitment (AMC), which is delivering life saving pneumococcal vaccines to the poorest countries at a 90% price reduction compared to the cost in the US and EU. And it has accelerated the pace of delivery so that by 2015 an additional 700 thousand lives ought to be saved. The child that I saw myself struggling for breath in the arms of her father, whilst a weeping mother looked on at the Princess Marie Louise Hospital in central Accra ought not to be joined by countless others and this roll out in Ghana will help to eradicate this.” Lord Boateng commented.
“Today is a great day for Ghanaians as we have the opportunity to improve the lot of our children, who are our greatest resource. The future of our country lies in our children,” said the First Lady, who also gave one of the first rotavirus vaccine doses at the ceremony in Independence Square.
“Our children have been dying from these vaccine-preventable diseases for too long, but this moment begins a major fight back,” said Health Minister Hon. Alban S. K. Bagbin. “With these vaccines, we want to, and we will, achieve MDG4, the two-thirds reduction of our child mortality by 2015.”
Ghana’s historic rollout today marks a new milestone in a global initiative to reach children in developing countries with vaccines against the leading childhood killers. Pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines have respectively reached 17 and six GAVI-supported countries in the last couple of years, and are expected to reach more than 40 countries by 2015.
“With the hard work and effort that has gone into this double launch, Ghana has established itself as a pioneer in the fight against pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease,” said GAVI CEO Seth Berkley, MD. “Today’s simultaneous launch marks yet another ambitious and encouraging step to make life-saving vaccines rapidly and efficiently available to the children who need them the most wherever they are born.”
The vaccines have been financed with generous contributions from GAVI donors including the UK, Italy and the US, and co-financed by the Government of Ghana. More than 400,000 Ghanaian children will be immunised against pneumococcal disease thanks to a £1.5 million contribution by JP Morgan, which was matched by the UK through the GAVI Matching Fund for a total contribution of £3 million.
Globally, the GAVI Alliance’s support for pneumococcal vaccines could prevent more than seven million deaths by 2030. By the same date, GAVI’s support for rotavirus vaccines could save another 2.4 million child deaths.