Today Ghana is doing something that no other country in Africa has ever done. The country is today introducing not just one, but two new vaccines. This is huge.

Every year in Ghana more than 50,000 children die before the age of five, and 20 percent of these deaths are caused by two leading killers, pneumonia and diarrhea. The two vaccines being introduced, for pneumococcal diseases and rotavirus, will protect children from these killer diseases.

But even introducing one vaccine isn’t an easy feat. Vaccines need to be kept cold; nurses and community health workers in every community, even those that are hardest to reach, need to be properly trained to administer the vaccines; and people around the country need to be educated about vaccines to avoid confusion and to dispel myths about vaccine safety.

This video shows how people in Ghana are coming together to make this unprecedented launch possible. The video was produced by the GAVI Alliance, the organization that in collaboration with the Ghana Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and many generous donors is bringing vaccines to Ghana to help prevent the deaths of thousands of children.

The dual vaccine launch today in Ghana coincides with celebrations around the world for World Immunization Week. This is the first year since the PAHO region initiated its Vaccination Week in the Americas ten years ago that all WHO regions are coming together to recognize the lifesaving power of vaccines.

This is a week of celebration. It is a time to recognize new victories, like the vaccine launch in Ghana, as well as past achievements, such as the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the elimination of polio and measles in the Americas.

Until all children have access to lifesaving vaccines against leading child killers and until scourges like polio and measles have been wiped off the earth, there is work to be done. World Immunization Week is thus a time to look to the future and to mobilize forces to make necessary change.

These are the visions of the Decade of Vaccines (DoV) Collaboration, which in the last year brought together hundreds of stakeholders from governments, NGOs and civil society sectors (among others) to draw up a Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). This plan draws on past successes and provides a roadmap for more vaccine introductions, specific disease elimination targets, universal immunization equity and improved total health systems. Next month the GVAP will be submitted to the World Health Assembly. Its endorsement will signify that this really is the decade for vaccines and the decade for change.

Read this op-ed by Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, to learn more about today’s celebrations in Ghana.
To learn more about the DoV Collaborataion, visit their site, here.
More information about World Immunization Week can be found on this WHO site.

Photo: February 2012. Ghana – Community based health volunteer Peter Owusu talks to mothers in the village of Ado Nkwanta village in Ghana’s Eastern Region about the benefits of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. GAVI/Doune Porter/PATH/2012.