106M Infants Worldwide Received Vaccines Last Year, Coverage Gaps Remain, Report Says

A joint report by the WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank on worldwide vaccination efforts released Wednesday found “a record 106 million infants were vaccinated last year against life-threatening diseases, but nearly a fifth of the world’s babies still are not protected fully,” the Associated Press reports. According to the report, “[v]accination is preventing 2.5 million child deaths a year. But if 90 percent of the world’s children under age 5 got the vaccinations that are routine in wealthy countries, another 2 million deaths a year could be prevented by 2015,” the AP writes (10/21).

“The data provide a snapshot of an immunization boom that has tripled the global vaccine market to $17 billion in eight years and set off a renaissance of vaccine development aimed at AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue fever,” Reuters writes. Yet, the report notes that “the children who missed out typically live in poorly served remote rural areas, deprived urban settings, fragile states and strife-torn regions, mostly in Africa and Asia,” demonstrating the need for childhood vaccination campaigns targeted to such regions.

The report “estimated that an additional investment of $1 billion would be needed to ensure that new and existing vaccines are available to all children in the world’s 72 poorest countries where preventable diseases take their deadliest toll,” according to the news service (Morgan, 10/21).

“We must overcome the divide that separates rich from poor, between those who get life-saving vaccines and those who don’t,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a WHO press release. Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF, attributed a decrease “in worldwide measles deaths … by 74% between 2000 and 2007” to measles vaccination campaigns. “Such progress must inspire new efforts to immunize children around the globe against life-threatening diseases,” she said (10/21).

The AP notes, “The report suggests that overcoming that gap may be a bigger challenge in coming years: In 2000, the world was spending, on average, $6 per live birth on vaccinations in developing countries. That’s expected to be $18 by next year, and could rise above $30 as newer, and more expensive, vaccines become available,” the news service writes (10/21).