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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Rwanda: First GAVI-eligible PCV Introduction

On April 25th 2009, the first low-income country, Rwanda, will introduce pneumococcal vaccine into its National Immunization program. The event was attended by international leaders in global health, officials from the Rwandan government, and hundreds of families seeking vaccination for their children. This event marks a major milestone in global health and vaccine introduction.

Accelerated Introduction of the Pneumococcal Vaccine

Rwanda has now become the first low-income country to introduce pneumococcal vaccine for its children. Ten other low-income countries have already been granted approval to introduce this vaccine in partnership with GAVI alliance. Based on Expression of Interest, about 30 countries could receive this approval in the coming three years. By accelerating access to this lifesaving vaccine in low-income countries, millions of lives can be saved.

This accelerated introduction was made possible by the hard work of many individuals and organizations including the government of Rwanda, the GAVI Alliance, WHO, USAID, UNICEF and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Wyeth has donated the doses of Prevenar to be used in the initial phase of this introduction. This donation allowed the Rwandan government to take swift action and introduce the vaccine sooner so that lives will start being saved sooner. Rwanda is introducing the vaccine through a partnership with the GAVI Alliance.

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View historic arrival of vaccine shipment >>

Pneumococcal Disease & Vaccination in Rwanda

Limited access to health care and appropriate antibiotics increases this risk of death to the point that nearly one in three children who become sick with pneumococcal disease dies from it. But with the introduction of this vaccine there is a great new hope that these numbers will change and thousands of lives will be saved each year.

This vaccine has been shown to be effective in HIV infected individuals, a critical fact in Rwanda. HIV infection dramatically increases the risk of contracting severe pneumococcal disease. This vaccine will help prevent pneumococcal disease both in the 19,000 Rwandan children who are infected with HIV and in HIV negative Rwandan children.

The toll of pneumococcal disease is felt both in lost life but also in a substantial economic hardship for the families and the health care system that treat children with this disease. The introduction of pneumococcal vaccine will save lives, but it is also expected to greatly alleviate the economic burden felt by families and Rwanda as a whole.