At 1 billion more per year vaccines can save 10 million lives

Ten million additional lives could be saved through child and maternal immunization between 2006-2015 at an average annual cost of $1 billion, according to a new study by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).The estimated $2.5 billion current annual spending on immunization in the poorest countries would need to increase to $3.5 billion by 2010 and $4 billion by 2015 to reach this goal, according to the study presented to last week’s meeting of the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) Partners in New Delhi, India.“Immunization is one of the best values for public health investment today: adequate resources and the right strategies lead to concrete results,” WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said.“We have achieved much progress already through immunization, but much more can and should be done. WHO, through GAVI and with partners such as UNICEF, is looking to achieve a massive impact in lives saved through immunization over the next decade,” he added. The new study, following on the WHO/UNICEF Global Immunization Vision and Strategy adopted this spring, lays out a number of goals such as raising immunization coverage levels to 90 per cent and reducing vaccine-preventable illness and deaths by two-thirds by 2015. If countries achieve these goals, by 2015, more than 70 million children who live in the world’s poorest countries will receive each year life-saving vaccines against the following diseases: tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, rubella, yellow fever, haemophilus influenzae type B, hepatitis B, polio, rotavirus, pneumococcus, meningococcus, and Japanese encephalitis.“Immunization is critical in reducing overall child deaths. This new study shows that we can achieve a significant reduction in deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases with a modest increase in funds,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said. “Of the more than 10 million children under five who die every year, an estimated 2.5 million are dying from diseases that can be prevented with currently available or new vaccines.”The poorest countries currently finance, on average, one-third of their immunization expenses. Until they can take on a greater proportion of the expenses, it is in the interest of resource-rich countries to cover some of the long-term costs. In an interconnected global community, there is increasing vulnerability to the spread of disease, making immunization even more critical.