NAIROBI, 14 February 2011 – Hundreds of infants in Kenya received their first shots against pneumococcal disease today at a special event to celebrate the global roll out of vaccines targeting the world’s biggest child killer — pneumonia.
Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki joined parents, health workers, ambassadors and donors in Nairobi to witness children being immunised as part of the Government of Kenya’s formal introduction of pneumococcal vaccine in its routine immunisation programme for all children.
“Today’s introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine in Kenya is an historic step towards improved health for children in Kenya and in other developing countries,” said Kenya’s Minister for Public Health and Sanitation, Beth Mugo. “The global introduction of pneumococcal vaccination is a milestone in global health and will help us reduce child mortality.”
Pneumococcal disease currently takes the lives of over a million of people every year – including more than half a million children before their fifth birthday. Pneumonia is the most common form of serious pneumococcal disease and accounts for 18% of child deaths in developing countries, making it one of the two leading causes of death among young children.
Kenya is the first African country to roll-out this pneumococcal conjugate vaccine which has been specially-tailored to meet the needs of children in developing countries. Nicaragua, Guyana, Yemen and Sierra Leone are also rolling out the vaccine with support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) which brings together governments, UNICEF, WHO and other key players in global health.
The GAVI Alliance has committed to support the introduction of pneumococcal vaccines in 19 developing countries within a year and, if it gets sufficient funding from its donors, plans to roll them out to more than 40 countries by 2015.