A young girl in Kenya. Credit: Gavi/ Evelyn Hockstein.
Susanna Krüger, CEO of Save the Children Germany
#Vaccineswork has not only been the motto of this year’s World Immunization Week, but is an accomplished fact supported by the successes made through immunisation programs in the past years. Since 1990, 50% less children have died of preventable diseases thanks to life-saving vaccinations. In 2016, I experienced this impact first hand during my travels to Turkana region in Kenya. While visiting a local medical facility supported by Save the Children, I met a mother from a rural village nearby. Proudly showing her vaccination certificate to me, she had just been to the clinic to receive the basic immunisations for her newborn child. These vaccinations will not only save the lives of her daughter and many other children, but make up the foundations of their futures.
Two weeks ago, Save the Children Germany teamed up with our partner organisations World Vision, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW), ONE Germany and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to invite stakeholders from the German global health community, government and parliament to celebrate past successes and discuss the future challenges of developing sustainable immunisation programs that reach every last child. It’s a goal we’re not reaching yet, as 1 in 7 children still remain unvaccinated today. What can we do about this?
Many children who do not benefit from vaccinations live in remote or conflict affected areas, or are part of specific groups – for example children of female caretakers with low socio-economic status or from vulnerable ethnic-religious minorities. In Nigeria, a child from a wealthy household is 15 times more likely to be vaccinated than a child from a poor household. Reaching these children must be a priority in future programs. And there is yet another big challenge ahead of us. In the coming years, the majority of the world’s poor will live in middle income countries, which are currently not supported by Gavi. Children in these countries will miss out on live-saving vaccinations without our support. This has to change.
Alongside Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley, we shared these issues with government representatives throughout our event. And we agreed: in the coming years, organisations like Gavi, the German government and civil society must work together to reach every last child. It must not only remain a priority for countries to continue the existing support for immunisation programs, but also to prioritise vulnerable groups and strengthen health systems.
As Save the Children, we believe that Germany has an important role to reach these goals by taking on the unique opportunity to influence the discussion on how to ensure no one is left behind, and increase support as a global leader in health. In line with the theme of the World Immunization Week, Protected Together, we will continue to work together with the government and our partners to realise this vision and create healthy futures for children around the world.