Vaccines are extremely powerful disease prevention agents and have the potential to save millions of lives. Tremendous scientific progress has been made in the past decade with several new vaccines licensed, including those to prevent pneumococcal and rotavirus disease—the two leading killers of young children in developing countries. Thanks to concerted efforts by stakeholders through the GAVI Alliance, many of these new vaccines are now accessible to the lowest-income countries and the children who live there.
However, we have not achieved equity in access to vaccines. Although routine immunisation coverage rates have substantially increased over the past two decades,1 nearly one in five children still does not receive even the most basic childhood vaccines.2 In 2011, an estimated 83% (107 million) of infants worldwide were vaccinated with three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine.2 More than 75% of the 22·4 million unvaccinated children live in the 56 countries eligible for GAVI support. Within these countries those who are not reached tend to be the poorest, the most vulnerable, and at times the most marginalised subgroups of the population.2
Increased immunisation efforts can bring us closer to reaching the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 target of reducing child mortality by two-thirds. But greater efforts are needed on two fronts: acceleration of the uptake of underused and newly available vaccines, and strengthening of the immunisation system to improve overall routine immunisation coverage.
Authors:Hanson CM, Furrer E, Schwalbe N, Berkley S.