Sunday, 20 May 2012 06:44
Doctors Without Borders says strategy may fail to deliver.
A new, ten-year, multi-billion dollar global vaccines plan about to be reviewed by global health ministers may fail to reach its goals unless it addresses weaknesses in routine immunization programs, says the international relief group Doctors Without Borders.
The "Global Vaccines Action Plan," designed to implement the $10 billion "Decade of Vaccines" program developed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others, focuses too much on new vaccines without boosting the sometimes-broken existing system of vaccine delivery in countries with limited health staff, says the doctors group.
While praising the renewed focus on vaccines, Doctors Without Borders expressed concern that so little progress has been made on improving the number of children immunized over the last ten years.
Health ministers gathering in Geneva for the 65th World Health Assembly will take up the plan during their May 21-26 meeting, as they discuss how to build on a decade's worth of work to improve vaccinations.
While vaccinations have helped curb child mortality along with other health care and development interventions, Doctors Without Borders is concerned that emphasis of new and increasingly sophisticated vaccines that have become available in the last decade misses out on more basic problems. In particular, the group points out that it is still regularly responding to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, largely caused by inadequate routine immunization programs. It also notes that six of the top ten countries identified as having a disproportionately high number of unimmunized children in 2006 remained on that list in 2010.
“The Global Vaccine Action Plan works on the assumption that basic vaccination programs are going well, and that's just not the reality in many places where we work,” said Estrella Lasry, a doctor working with the group.
Some 20 percent of babies born each year—nearly five times the children born yearly in the United States—are not getting the basic vaccines they need to be protected from killer diseases, says the group.
“Reaching these unreached children will require prioritizing easier-to-use vaccines,” says Kate Elder, vaccines policy adviser at Doctors Without Borders Access Campaign. “There is an urgent need to invest in the development of products that make vaccines easier to give. We also need to open up a discussion on how to deliver vaccines to reach children in the most remote areas.”
By MICHAEL FITZHUGH