By: Dr. Ciro A. de Quadros and Dr. Mathuram Santosham
Just this month, data from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, World Bank and UNwere released demonstrating that increased access to lifesaving health interventions, like vaccines, has helped slash the number of global child deaths by more than 35 percent in the last two decades. But despite this considerable pro
gress, nearly 21,000 children still die each day from preventable causes and more needs to be done if we are to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 – a two-thirds reduction in child deaths by 2015.
Today the GAVI Alliance’s announcement supporting the first-ever widespread rollout of rotavirus vaccines in 16 low-income countries — the majority of which are in Africa where nearly 50 percent of the world’s rotavirus burden is found — marks a historic and unprecedented milestone in global efforts to save children’s lives.
These vaccines prevent the most common cause of severe diarrhea, a leading killer of children. GAVI will also continue to support the rollout of lifesaving vaccines such as those preventing pneumonia and other infectious threats throughout the developing world. Widespread use of these vaccines will help prevent the deaths of millions of children in years ahead.
GAVI’s announcement marks a huge leap forward in protecting children from some of the deadliest threats they face. Rotavirus, in particular, is virulent and contagious. Every child is vulnerable. Unlike other forms of diarrhea, it cannot be stopped with improvements in hygiene, sanitation and drinking water alone. Vaccines are the best way prevent rotavirus and in places where the urgent care needed for treatment is unavailable, these vaccines can make the difference between life and death.
As we celebrate the tremendous progress being made, we also need to set our sights on the next frontier by ensuring the rollout of these vaccines in every high-burden country. This means we need to extend our reach beyond low-income countries into low-middle income countries throughout the world.
The Rotavirus Organization of Technical Allies (ROTA) Council was created to support the work GAVI and other partners are doing and continue to advance progress by expanding access to rotavirus vaccines in high-burden countries throughout the world. We’re a dedicated team of scientific and technical experts, representing every region of the world, working to save children’s lives and reduce the threat of rotavirus. Through the use of evidence and strategic communications targeting policymakers in high-burden countries, we’re working to accelerate the global introduction of rotavirus vaccines.
The fight to save children’s lives from preventable causes is a fight that can be won. GAVI is making remarkable progress, but they can’t do it alone. We know that success will require the collective efforts of the entire global community.
Together, we can win this fight.
Dr. Ciro A. de Quadros is co-chair of the ROTA Council and the executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
Dr. Mathuram Santosham is co-chair of the ROTA Council, director of the Center for American Indian Health and professor of international health and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.