Friday, July 08, 2011


Reply posted on the website of, to the Editor's Comment Vaccines alone will not prevent the deaths of children:

As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia in the UK (APPG) I read Becky Slack’s editorial on the recent GAVI pledging conference and vaccine funding with interest.

Since its inception in 2007 the APPG has worked to encourage the reduction of childhood mortality through the prevention, protection and treatment of pneumonia. I agree wholeheartedly with Becky that the recent GAVI Alliance Pledging Conference was good news, not only for developing countries that will benefit from the US$ 4.3 billion that was committed to expand vaccine projects, as Becky states, but also for the developed world as it marks one of the most public displays of commitment to international development this year, if not this decade.

The APPG recognises that vaccination must be accompanied by other strategies, which is why we follow the GAPP Report’s recommendations on pneumonia, which focus on prevention, protection and treatment. The GAVI Alliance itself puts money towards health system strengthening and one of the biggest contributors to the GAVI Alliance, the UK Government, recognises the importance of a holistic development strategy, which looks to tackle a range of factors that contribute to childhood mortality. The Government already works to tackle the issues raised by Becky in her editorial. The Department for International Development (DFID) works with organisations such as WaterAid to improve sanitation and water supplies across the Globe. One of the UK’s recent projects has been working with WaterAid in Dhaka, Bangladesh, alongside a local charity DSK, to help bring clean water and sanitation to Zakir slum. The work has resulted in a huge reduction in cases of diseases such as diarrhoea and jaundice fever.

But, I disagree with Becky when she questions whether funding vaccines is the “best use of the [GAVI Pledging Conference} money”. Pneumonia, which is the leading killer of children under 5 in the developing world, is largely preventable because effective vaccines exist. The same is true of diarrhoea, the disease Becky cites in her editorial. 1.6 million children die from the disease every year and yet a vaccine exists, which is effective at preventing rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhoea. The GAVI Alliance has shown the impact that introducing these vaccines into the developing world can make.

The organisation has vaccinated 288 million children across the world since 2000 and saved an estimated 5 million children’s lives. The money committed at the Pledging Conference will help to vaccinate a further 243 million and save a further 4 million lives. This is why vaccination is such a crucial element of international development strategies the world over, it delivers effective, life-saving results at a relatively low cost and it can be rolled out efficiently across the developing world.

This year the GAVI Alliance has rolled out the latest pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to a number of developing world countries and by 2015 they hope to be able to vaccinate children in 40 of the worst affected countries. This is tremendous progress making a lasting and hard-hitting impact and this is why the Pledging Conference funds are so crucial and why vaccination is such an important and successful investment for developed countries.

Eric Avebury
House of Lords

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