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'Miracle of Vaccines' Will Help Africa Development

'Miracle of Vaccines' Will Help Africa Development

GAVI CEO Seth Berkley underlined the extraordinary potential of a new generation of life-saving vaccines for African development in a landmark global health speech on Monday.

"Vaccination has a broad development impact that stretches far beyond the immediate benefits to a child's health," said Dr. Berkley, who was delivering the fourth annual Manhiça Foundation lecture - the Miracle of Vaccines - at Maputo University's Faculty of Medicine.

"Healthier children can attend school and learn more effectively. They also live longer - a one year increase in life expectancy increases labour productivity by four percent."

According to a study by David Bloom, vaccination leads to increased cognitive ability and a higher earning potential in adulthood.

Africa's opportunity

"Ten countries account for the over 19 million unimmunised children in the world; seven lie on the African continent," said Dr. Berkley on his first official visit to Africa since joining GAVI last year.

With GAVI support, African countries have the opportunity to introduce new vaccines against pneumococcal disease and rotavirus, the primary causes of pneumonia and diarrhoea respectively and biggest killers of under-fives in the developing world.

"Each year, more than half a million children die of pneumococcal disease, of which 90 percent are born in Africa," said Dr. Berkley.

By the end of 2016, GAVI expects to help globally immunise 13.6 million children against pneumococcal disease.

Mozambique

As part of his three-day visit to Mozambique, Dr. Berkley will be discussing the country's own preparations for pneumococcal vaccine introduction with the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Berkley started his visit by meeting with Premier Aires Ali, who pledged his support for immunisation in Mozambique; he will also be visiting GAVI partners on the ground, WHO and UNICEF.

Mozambique was one of the first countries to receive GAVI support in 2001; last October, GAVI approved Maputo's application for pneumococcal vaccine support - recognition that 13% of under-five deaths in Mozambique are caused by pneumonia.

However, while Mozambique has made advances in vaccination over the last decade, there are signs that an additional push for routine immunisation is needed, particularly in health worker capacity and cold chain storage. Slight increases in measles' cases have also led to concerns about the level of protection achieved across the country.

Village Reach

Dr. Berkley also highlighted the role that non-governmental organisations can play in facilitating vaccination delivery, pointing to Village Reach's pioneering work in Cabo Delgado as one potential model for Mozambique.

Renaissance age of vaccines

Dr. Berkley likened the recent flux of new vaccines to a "Renaissance age" of new vaccines. In the two decades from 1980-99, three new vaccines were developed; in the following two decades, it is expected that more than 12 will come on to the market.

"When my father was born in the 1900s, there was only one vaccine. When I was born, there were a handful more. Now, my children have access to many many more," he said.

HPV and rubella

Last November, GAVI took the first steps towards offering support for two new vaccines: HPV and rubella.

HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, which kills over 270,000 women every year; 85 percent of deaths occur in developing countries while in Mozambique more than 33 percent of women's cancer is cervical cancer.

Dr. Berkley also listed other new vaccines that could benefit Africa in the near future: conjugated typhoid vaccine and malaria.

Manhiça Foundation

With over three million recorded cases of malaria infection in Mozambique each year, the Manhiça Foundation is playing a lead role in conducting phase III trials of a potential breakthrough vaccine against malaria.

Dr. Berkley is the third high-level representative from GAVI to deliver the Manhiça Foundation lecture on global health in the past four years. Former Vaccine Fund Chair Graça Machel and Her Royal Highness the Infanta Cristina, Director of the International Area of "La Caixa" and an important supporter of GAVI, delivered the keynote address in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

The lecture was chaired by Dr. Pascoal Mocumbi, former Mozambican Premier (1994-2004) and President of the Manhiça Foundation.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of BlackSeer.com. BlackSeer.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.
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