Box 2.13: Reducing child mortality through immunization
Outstanding progress has been made towards eradicating polio, reducing measles mortality and eliminating maternal and neo-natal tetanus, through such innovative partnerships as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the Measles Initiative and the Global Partnership for Eliminating Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus. Worldwide, 784 children were paralyzed by polio in 2003, down from an estimated 350,000 in 1988; the number of endemic countries has declined from more than 125 to six. From 1999 to 2002, measles deaths decreased by 30 percent globally, with a 35 percent reduction in Africa.
The number of neonatal tetanus deaths came down from 800,000 worldwide in the 1980s to 180,000 in 2002. By the end of 2005, maternal and neonatal tetanus will be eliminated in 12 of the 57 high-risk countries, with 13 more high-risk countries close to achieving this goal. With the launch of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) in 2000, more than 500,000 lives are expected to be saved. The Alliance has enabled 40 of the world’s poorest countries to immunize for the first time 35.5 million children against hepatitis B. Six million children have been vaccinated against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and 2.7 million children against yellow fever.
Challenges remain, however, and WHO is working with UNICEF to develop a new global immunization strategy (Global Immunization Vision and Strategy—GIVS). The strategy concentrates on four main priorities for protecting more people in a changing world: introducing new vaccines and technologies, linking vaccination with other interventions, increasing synergy between immunization programmes and health systems, and addressing immunization challenges in the context of global interdependence.