Ghana has become the first country in West Africa to introduce vaccines against pneumococcal and rotavirus illnesses.
Dr Seth Berkley told the BBC that, “[The programme] gets these vaccines together out to people who need them, and you can do one large social mobilisation to try to get the population to understand that we’re tackling these two largest killers.”
Pneumococcal infections generally cause pneumonia, ear infections and meningitis, with the rotavirus illnesses can cause diarrhoea in children—both infections are two of the biggest childhood killers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Together, both diseases are responsible for the death of over 2.7 million children under the age of five every year.
The First Lady of Ghana, Ernestina Naadu Mills said, “Today is a great day for Ghanaians as we have the opportunity to improve the lot of our children who are our future and the greatest resource for our development agenda.”
$2.43 million (£1.5 million) was contributed by JP Morgan and the contribution was matched by Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) , an institution that seeks to bring donor governments, the United Nations’ World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private donors.
GAVI was able to get the manufacturers of the vaccines—GSK, Pfizer and Merck—to discount 90% of the price of the drugs to make it affordable for the Ghanaian government, who are also contributing to the cost about 20 US cents per dose.