June 16, 2011

Reducing dependencies on foreign funding for national immunization programs is a necessary step to insuring that the programs are in place for future generations, according to the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Sustainable Immunization Financing (SIF) Program in an article published in the June edition of Health Affairs.

Vaccines, the most cost-effective health intervention available, have prevented more than two million deaths annually and represent an important tool for reducing child mortality and achieving several of the Millennium Development Goals. But these gains will be reversed unless financial, legislative and political hurdles are overcome, say the authors.

While the cost of fully immunizing a child has steadily risen, governments’ investments in immunization are not keeping pace. The authors report that in the 65 countries with annual per capita gross domestic product (GDPs) below US $1,500, the government share of routine immunization budgets was 32 percent in 2007 and 35 percent in 2009. These figures do not include new and underutilized vaccines for diseases including pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, and Haemophilus influenzae Type B.

“It’s imperative that countries achieve sustainable immunization financing so that they not only lessen their dependence on foreign sources, but also increase country ownership of their programs. This will require building the capacity of key domestic institutions so that they can provide an essential public health good to their citizens,” said Dr. Mike McQuestion, Director of the SIF Program. “The ‘Decade of Vaccines’ won’t achieve success if countries increasingly have access to vaccines, but cannot afford them or do not have the capacity to sustain their immunization programs.”

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sabin’s SIF Program has been working since 2007 to ensure accessibility and affordability of immunizations in 15 pilot countries in Asia and Africa.

“Creating Sustainable Financing and Support for Immunization Programs in Fifteen Developing Countries” was co-written by Dr. McQuestion, Sabin Executive Vice President Dr. Ciro de Quadros, and SIF Senior Program Officers Dr. Clifford Kamara, Dr. Devendra Gnawali, Diana Kizza, Jonas Mbwangue, and Dr. Helene Mambu-Ma-Disu.

About Sabin Vaccine InstituteSabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world’s most pervasive health care challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat, and eliminate vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating use of existing vaccines, and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information please visit www.sabin.org.

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Richard Hatzfeld