WHO to back ‘Global Vaccine Action Plan’

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) is set to support an ambitious new blueprint for getting vaccines to those who need them most.

Experts from across the world will gather later this month for the World Health Assembly – the WHO’s key decision-making body – to debate the Global Vaccine Action Plan which has been drawn up by the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration.

The latest draft of the Action Plan has been published as part of an exhaustive consultation exercise which saw 1,100 contributions submitted from more than 140 countries. Academics, policymakers, as well as representatives from the private sector and non-governmental organisations fed into the process which began last year.

The plan has three primary aims:

  • Provide life-saving vaccines to those who need them most
  • Maintain a strong pipeline of new vaccines
  • Strengthen public support for vaccination efforts

Briefing Vaccines Today on the Action Plan, officials from the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration said its goals include the global elimination of polio; meeting vaccination coverage targets “in every region, country and community”; improving vaccination research and development; and exceeding the fourth Millennium Development Goal which focuses on the reduction of child mortality.

Boosting public support for immunisation will be central to achieving these goals. DoVC officials said “vaccine hesitancy” was raised at every consultation meeting in every region.

One of the strategic objectives set out in the Action Plan is to ensure that individuals and communities “understand the value of vaccines and demand immunisation as both their right and responsibility”.

2020 vision

Bill Gates’ dubbed this the ‘Decade of Vaccines’ in a landmark speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2010. He highlighted the urgent need to get existing vaccines to those who need them and to develop new vaccines to address unmet needs.

Gates also pointed to the potential of research and new vaccine technologies to tackle these challenges, thus adding momentum (and a sizeable chunk of funding) to the global fight against polio and vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses, as well to the protection of adults against diseases such as influenza.

The ‘Decade of Vaccines’ has since entered the lexicon of public health and development advocates, and has even inspired a special edition of The Lancet medical journal focussing on innovation in immunisation.

The Decade of Vaccines Collaboration, which is itself part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been doing the legwork on the new Action Plan but is likely to “disappear” at the end of 2012.

DoVC officials told Vaccines Today that its secretariat will flesh out the Action Plan with further technical details until the end of the year, before handing over the task of monitoring its implementation.

The WHO will pick up much of this work but other agencies and organisations – such as UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance – are likely to play an active role.

The World Health Assembly runs from May 21 to 26.

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