Global polio campaign aims to expand its reach at Abu Dhabi summit

Global Vaccine Summit in the capital will feature discussions on reaching the world's poor children for immunisations.

September 17, 2012 - Mohammed bin Zayed orders the launch of a polio and measles vaccination campaign for 20,000 children in Pakistan  
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ABU DHABI // Vaccines for measles, rubella, pneumonia and the human papilloma virus (HPV) could be part of a worldwide polio eradication strategy.

The campaign will be discussed at the Global Vaccine Summit in the capital next month.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) – that secures funding for vaccination programmes in the world’s 73 poorest countries – plans to expand its operations through greater cooperation with governments, private business groups and non-government organisations at the vaccine summit.

Polio eradication and other vaccination campaigns have often worked in isolation, but more cooperation is needed to reach the neediest children, particularly those in high-conflict areas.

“We’re trying to get children protected against as many major diseases as we can, as quickly as possible,” said Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi. “There have been no connections. We’re really trying to see who could be partners.

“The point is not only to get vaccinations to these children, it’s to strengthen their immunisation systems, their health systems and to strengthen their sustainability.”

About half of the countries treated by Gavi are members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

More than Dh7.3 billion has been invested in the OIC since 2000 to offer vaccinations against yellow fever, meningitis and a bacterial flu called HIb.

Very little money has come from regional donors.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, is one of the few contributors in the region, having given more than Dh121 million since 2011. That includes a donation of Dh36.7m this year.

Gavi signed an agreement this week with the Islamic Development Bank to vaccinate more than 400 million children in at least 29 countries.

The US$7bn (Dh25.7bn) campaign will target illnesses including pneumonia and diarrhoea, two of the largest killers of children in developing countries.

Gavi launched a measles-rubella campaign in Rwanda this week to vaccinate more than 700 million children under 15 in 49 countries by 2020.

The immunisation prevents the transmission of rubella from mother to child, a cause of severe birth defects.

A second campaign supports the treatment of a million girls for HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, in 20 countries by 2015.

Dr Berkley hopes to expand these outreach programmes in the Middle East after the Abu Dhabi summit.

“In places like Afghanistan, places like Somalia, places like Yemen,  it’s very important that we do everything we can to move forward,” he said.

The summit will be held on April 24 and 25.