Sometimes small things indicate big changes. This week, Tanzania is rolling out two new vaccines that protect against the world’s biggest childhood killers - pneumonia and diarrhea. Together these diseases account for nearly one third of child deaths in low-income countries. Tanzania joins Ghana as only the second developing country to simultaneously introduce these new vaccines.
This was possible because of U.S. investments with the United Kingdom, the Gates Foundation and others in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, or GAVI. Since 2000, GAVI has helped immunize 370 million children against the leading vaccine-preventable diseases in the world’s poorest countries and prevented more than 5.5 million deaths. Over the next 5 years, GAVI will immunize 250 million children with new vaccines, and save 4 million more children’s lives.
Vaccines are some of the most powerful life-saving interventions the world has ever seen, and we’re working together to roll them out where they are most needed.
The big change is how quickly this is unfolding. It took 184 years from the time Edward Jenner developed the first smallpox vaccine until the world was able to deliver it to every person in need and ultimately eradicate the disease in 1980. It’s been almost 60 years since the development of the first polio vaccine, and we’re still working to reach every person in need in an extraordinary effort to eradicate that disease from the planet. But this week, we are simultaneously vaccinating children in rich and poor countries at the same time with two new vaccines developed within the last few years. This means we’re rapidly closing the gap in time between when a vaccine is developed and when it actually reaches those most in need and starts saves lives! While we can do even better, this is an encouraging sign of progress worth celebrating.