A new pneumonia vaccine is launched to save thousands of children
By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
A new immunization programme against pneumonia is expected to reach as many as 1.4 million children and save thousands of lives.
IGANGA DISTRICT, Uganda, 10 May 2013 – Pneumonia is one of the top three killer diseases of children under the age of 5 globally. In Uganda, pneumonia kills up to 24,000 children every year before their fifth birthday. But now thousands of children’s lives will be saved by the recent introduction of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).
The vaccine will not only give children immunity against pneumonia, but also protect them from other life-threatening conditions like meningitis, which often causes permanent mental disability and seizures for survivors.
The Government of Uganda, with support from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and other partners, launched PCV at a ceremony officiated by Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in Iganga District, eastern Uganda.
The vaccine was made available through funding by the GAVI Alliance, a global health partnership committed to saving children’s lives through immunization. GAVI has provided over US$26 million in vaccines and related supplies, and an additional $1.34 million to support operational costs around introduction of the vaccine, including training, social mobilization, cold chain maintenance and supervision.
Requirement number one
Speaking at the ceremony, President Museveni called on parents to immunize their children against killer diseases. “Health is wealth. Now, if health is wealth, what are the measures that are needed to ensure that we live a healthy life?” Mr. Museveni asked. “Requirement number one: vaccination.” . The PCV will be rolled out across the country targeting children below the age of one year, and will be available free of charge in public health facilities. The vaccination programme is expected to reach as many as 1.4 million children in Uganda in 2013 alone, and will be a part of routine immunization programmes countrywide.
The right to a healthy life
“Every child, no matter where he or she is born, should have the opportunity and the right to a healthy life, and vaccines are one of the best ways to provide that,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer of the GAVI Alliance.
The introduction of the new vaccine and the country-wide vaccination exercise will also accelerate progress towards reducing preventable child deaths, one of the Millennium Development Goal targets set to be achieved by 2015.