Recently there has been a great deal of good news for children suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases. Just this week, Burundi announced the start of a United Nations-backed initiative to add the pneumococcal vaccine to its national immunization program. In Kenya, as part of 6-month old nationwide pneumococcal vaccination program, Somali refugee children are being vaccinated against a disease that globally claims the lives of at least 800,000 children under five.
A new study by the US Center for Disease Control reported that routine immunization with the rotavirus vaccine, which began in the US in 2006, helped to prevent 65,000 hospitalizations. Efforts are increasing to get the rotavirus vaccine out to the developing world, where rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrhea deaths in children.
These recent announcements build on a forward-moving momentum.
In the past few decades, national campaigns to eliminate measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in Latin America were hugely successful. Thanks to vaccines, these diseases have been eradicated in the US and reduced drastically throughout the Americas. Between 1998 and 2006 rubella cases in the Americas decreased 98 percent to fewer than 3000. The number of measles cases declined by greater than 99 percent, from approximately 250,000 in 1990 to 105 confirmed cases as of 2003. These successes in Latin America help pave the way for vaccine programs in other parts of the world, where children continue to suffer from measles, rubella and other vaccine-preventable diseases, including enteric diseases like typhoid fever.
Despite an affordable public sector price per dose, access to typhoid vaccines remains low in many high burden communities. Recently though, the first typhoid vaccine was awarded WHO pre-qualification status and organizations from around the world, as part of the Coalition against Typhoid, are working to expand access to life-saving typhoid vaccines. Similarly, other Sabin Vaccine Advocacy and Education programs are working to promote awareness and increase the use of both traditional and new, underutilized vaccines.