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Triumph in global health

The year 2023 had multiple health-related crisis, but humanity stamped out infectious diseases through collaborative action.

This great achievement came to pass just as the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrated its 75th Anniversary last April, 2023 when a spirit of unity prevailed confirming that together we can provide everyone with the best chance for a healthy life.

Fast forward, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the end of COVID-19 global health emergency. on May 5, 2023.

The momentous occasion highlighted innovation of vaccine researchers, the grit and resolve of vaccine delivery programmes around the world, political commitment by government leaders and the incredible dedication of healthcare workers.

Through the initiative, WHO and key partners marked a coordinated effort to reverse the historic declines in childhood vaccination attributed to the pandemic to resume the hard-fought gains putting communities and countries back on the path to the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) which they all committed to at the World Health Assembly.

Kate O’brien, Director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals (WHO) offered hope for reaching a future, where no child dies of a vaccine-preventable disease.

O’Brien said another key milestone for malaria vaccines, Malaria Vaccine Initiative Programme (MVIP) is set to be completed this December, 2023.

It’s a time to acknowledge the lessons learned and celebrate the substantial health gains during the programme’s pilot introductions in Kenya, Malawi and Ghana to inform the scale-up of malaria vaccines in Africa and beyond where malaria is a public health threat, she declared.

Evaluation results of the MVIP in the respective three African countries show a strong safety profile and high-impact results: marking a 13% drop in early childhood deaths and hospitalized severe malaria, and high demand for malaria vaccine.

She explained that MVIP is a model public-private partnership and a WHO flagship programme implemented by colleagues at all levels with significant contributions by international and country-level partners.

The MVIP is a model public-private partnership and a WHO flagship programme that has been implemented by colleagues at all levels of the Organization, with significant contributions by international and country-level partners.

“We look forward to further collaboration with partners in 2024 and beyond to support the malaria vaccine introductions into country vaccine and malaria control programmes, so that more children can benefit”, the Director stated.

She emphasized that malaria is not the only vaccine news, singling out others like; the dengue vaccine, “Qdenga”, which holds the potential to protect youth from a significant public health threat providing recommendations on its use and rollout.

Additionally, a new Men5CV vaccine against meningitis is set to make a positive impact in the African meningitis belt.

In the fight against cervical cancer, there’s reason for optimism with substantial progress on HPV vaccination, the Director revealed in a statement widely shared on WHO official website.

The endorsement of the single-dose recommendation by WHO and its adoption by 30 additional countries, including high-cervical-cancer-burden countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Nigeria, brings us closer to the 2030 goal of widespread availability of HPV vaccines for all girls worldwide.

Despite these incredible achievements, the world acknowledges the urgent need for more work in preventing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Under the inspiring banner of “The Big Catch-Up,” countries are actively reestablishing the performance and coverage of childhood routine vaccination programs to prevent unnecessary outbreaks of diseases like measles, yellow fever, diphtheria, polio, and pertussis.

Sustained investments in immunization, often the foundation of a primary health care approach, integrated fully into national health plans, and equitable access to vaccines are crucial for the continued success of these efforts.

As we come to the end of this remarkable year, I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation for your unwavering dedication and tireless efforts in advancing vaccine development and deployment through immunization programmes worldwide.

Together, she added, we have achieved remarkable milestones, overcoming numerous challenges, and making a significant impact on the lives of people, and on the public’s health.

“It is through your hard work and collaboration that we have made such tremendous progress in protecting the health and well-being of individuals across the globe”, O’Brien explained.

Your unwavering commitment to research and development has resulted in breakthroughs, such as development of new vaccines and improved delivery mechanisms.

These advancements, she continued, have not only expanded the scope of protection but also enhanced accessibility, ensuring that even the most marginalized communities receive the care that is their right.

The Director said we are looking forward to January 2024, when the second Progress Report on the IA2030 will be presented to the Executive Board of the WHO.

She stated that there’s a strong commitment to advocating for a world where vaccines are available and accessible to all, regardless of birth, geography, or economy.

Together, we can strive for even greater success in immunization coverage, equity, and innovation. Let us continue to strengthen partnerships, foster collaboration, and share knowledge to overcome remaining challenges and ensure no one is left behind, she said.

The Director pointed out that 2024 will be an opportunity not just to reflect on past achievements but perhaps more importantly to set ambitious goals for the future.

The upbeat spirit of progress and collaboration is driving us toward a world where immunization remains a cornerstone of global health efforts, ensuring a brighter and healthier future for all.

By working together, we can confront emerging threats, adapt to changing circumstances, and ensure resilient immunization programmes that we know form the foundation of emergency responses to infectious disease threats, she concluded.

By Joseph Ouma

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