(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

State of world's vaccines and immunization

Vaccine quality testing by the Division of Biological Products at the Department of Medical Sciences, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand

Yellow fever is a “ticking time bomb”, while measles has been eliminated three years ahead of schedule in parts of Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. These are among the highlights of the most recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, State of the World’s Vaccines and Immunization:

- One quarter of annual under-five deaths, or about 2.5 million, are caused by diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.

- Immunization currently saves between two million and three million lives per year.

- There are about 20 vaccines currently in use globally. Another 20 new or improved vaccines are expected to be available by 2015.

- There is no treatment for yellow fever and an “insecure” vaccine supply in Africa where about 27,000 die annually from the disease. There is a gap of 10 million doses every year to meet demand in Africa. An additional six million is needed for any outbreaks.

- Eradicating smallpox cost US$100 million over a 10-year period up to 1977 and has since saved $1.3 billion annually in treatment and prevention costs.

- Nine African countries have eliminated neonatal tetanus.

- Two H5N1 flu vaccines have been developed in the US and Europe. Six vaccine manufacturers in developing countries have started H5N1 vaccine development as of early 2009 as part of a WHO technology transfer initiative.

- In 2007 an estimated 105 million children under the age of one were vaccinated with diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine, protecting them against infections that can lead to illness, disability or death; another 24 million children under the age of one did not receive the DTP3 vaccine doses in 2007. About three-quarters of the non-vaccinated children live in 10 countries ? Bangladesh, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan and Uganda.

- On average 1.3 million infants and young children die every year from pneumococcal disease and rotavirus diarrhoea, for which vaccines exist.

- The Meningitis Vaccine Project is working on a new vaccine for meningococcus, which is endemic in every country in the world. Clinical tests are ongoing for a vaccine to prevent the strain Meningitis A, which leads to large deadly epidemics every seven to 12 years in sub-Saharan Africa.

- The Eastern Mediterranean region – which includes countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan – has cut measles deaths by 90 percent from 2000 to 2007, already achieving the UN goal of cutting measles deaths by 90 percent by 2010. But despite a global measles vaccination rate of 82 percent, there were still 197,000 reported deaths from measles in 2007.

- Worldwide incidence of poliomyelitis has dropped by 99 percent, from 350, 000 cases reported in 1988 to 1,655 cases in 2008. It remained endemic in four countries as of June 2009: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.


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