The New Times (Kigali)

22 April 2009

Rwanda: Pneumococcal Vaccine Launch for This Week

Nyarugenge — The government, in conjunction with international leaders in Global Health, is set to launch the first national immunization programme against the pneumococal disease this week.

This was revealed by the Minister of Health, Dr. Richard Sezibera at a press conference that was held at a Kigali hotel yesterday.

According to Sezibera, the vaccine will officially be administered to hundreds of children in Ruhuha Health Centre in Bugesera district after which it will be accessible to all children country-wide.

"We are committed to saving lives and improving the health of our most precious national resource - our children. With the introduction of this vaccine, our goal of significantly reducing child deaths in Rwanda will now be within reach," Sezibera said.

Ahead of the launch ceremony, top officials from major partner organisations in this cause, such as GAVI Alliance, Wyeth pharmaceuticals and Johns Hopkins University school of Public Health have already arrived in the country.

The Executive Director of Gavi's Pneumococcal ADIP, Orin S. Levine, hailed Rwanda's strong immunization system that reaches about 95 percent of children countrywide affirming his optism that the new vaccine will have a positive impact in the country.

"This very vaccine has reduced Gambia's child mortality rate by 16 percent so it will significantly decrease the death rate in Rwanda between now and 2030," he added.

Julian Lob-Levyt, the Chief Executive Officer of Gavi Alliance also thanked the government for supporting this initiative stressing the need to cub preventable diseases that are caused by Pneumococcal.

Sezibera noted that global partnerships coupled with good local leadership have in the past enabled Rwanda to achieve different goals, citing the 30 percent reduction in maternal deaths and a 60 percent significant reduction in malaria mortality.

He also explained that 395,000 children will be immunised annually adding that a child will have to complete the three doses before reaching his or her first birthday.

Studies that have been carried out in Rwanda show that the disease is responsible for the 25 percent child mortality rate. Over 1 million people die of the same disease worldwide, of which 98 percent are from Africa.

Officials however explained that the vaccine prevents pneumococcal diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, sinus infections and certain blood infections.

Other countries that have been approved by GAVI to receive assistance in regard with the introduction of this vaccine include Kenya, the Central African Republic, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo among others.

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