by Samantha Chivers, Global Health Campaign Manager (Maternal, Child and Neonatal Health) with RESULTS International (Australia).
On World Immunisation Week this year, RESULTS International (Australia) is celebrating the work of the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership that has had phenomenal success in getting underused vaccines to children in the poorest countries in the world.
It is clear GAVI is a worthwhile investment for Australia, as it aligns very strongly with Australian foreign policy priorities in several ways.
Here are five reasons why:
GAVI was rated extremely highly in a 2012 Australian Government evaluation, as it “[saves] lives through cost-effective and evidence-based interventions”. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has recently publicly praised GAVI, calling it “the kind of thinking we need”. GAVI also strongly emphasises results-based financing, which aligns with Australia’s interest in linking aid spending to performance benchmarks.
In 2011, Australia pledged $200 million to the GAVI Alliance. This funding alone vaccinated an estimated 37 million children against a range of childhood diseases, including 3.3 million children vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia. These vaccinations will avert over half a million future deaths.
Our investment has also supported the development of stronger health systems in over 50 countries, including Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Solomon Islands. This will not only provide the foundation for successful immunisation programs, but also prioritise strong and sustainable health system financing within recipient governments.
Australian partnership and leadership in the Indo-Pacific region is vital. GAVI has a large influence in the Asia-Pacific region: seventeen of the countries that have received GAVI support are also Australian aid priority countries.
It also shows the strength of Australian research: GAVI focuses on rolling out new and underused vaccines, and this has most recently included human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to protect girls and women against cervical cancer, an Australian-developed vaccine. In two years, 21 of the poorest countries in the world have been approved to introduce HPV vaccine with GAVI support, including Laos and the Solomon Islands. Through negotiating a new record low price of $4.50 per dose of HPV vaccine, GAVI hopes to reach more than 30 million girls in more than 40 countries by 2020.
The GAVI Alliance works to improve global vaccine markets to ensure adequate supply of appropriate, quality vaccines at low and sustainable prices. This involves working with private pharmaceutical companies in countries such as Indonesia, to support their access to global vaccine markets, so they can make new and underused vaccines for their own regions. GAVI has had great success in creating jobs in vaccine production. In 2001, there were 5 vaccine suppliers to GAVI, 1 based in an emerging market. By mid-2013, there were 12 vaccine suppliers to GAVI, with over half now based in Africa, Asia and Latin America. One outstanding example is the rollout in late 2013 of the locally produced pentavalent vaccine in Indonesia: protecting children against five diseases in one shot, this will now be produced by the Indonesian pharmaceutical industry.
GAVI is also very conscious to introduce regional-specific vaccines. Japanese encephalitis (JE), for example, is a serious mosquito-borne viral disease that kills over 15,000 people per year. Late last year, Chinese manufacturers obtained qualifications from the World Health Organisation to begin producing JE vaccines. This vaccine will be going to eight countries in Asia at risk of JE transmission.
Consistent with recent trends in Australian aid, GAVI will be investing more time and resources in strengthening health systems, especially in fragile and conflict-affected states. Considering the intense focus of the Australian military and the foreign policy department on building the governance and resilience of countries like Myanmar and Afghanistan, developing strong policies to ensure equitable access to immunisations will assist in building strong health systems.
The countries that make up the Indo-Pacific are diverse and complex, and so are their needs. Extreme poverty co-exists on the same streets as comfortable families and the megarich, more so than anywhere else on earth. RESULTS Australia works to ensure the poorest countries in the world benefit from evidence based health policy.
Vaccines decrease poverty. There it is. GAVI works with the poorest countries to get new and underused vaccines on the ground to the families that need them. GAVI is on track to immunise half a billion children by 2015, and save more than nine million lives by the end of the decade. Although Australia works with a smaller aid budget than in previous years, GAVI is an excellent investment for Australia, and for the world.
This post was originally published on the ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership blog.