Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan decried the lack of donor funding for lifesaving vaccines and underscored the value of immunization in achieving Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing under-five child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
In a joint opinion piece published in the Huffington Post, Carter and Annan emphasized that “vaccines have saved the lives of millions of children around the world, and have the potential to save millions more in the future as newer vaccines are developed and introduced.”
The two former top officials wrote that, while polio eradication is not assured, the world is at risk of losing years of progress made against measles if the funding drop continues. In 2008, more than 22 million infants were not given routine vaccinations because of inadequate financial support for immunization, they added.
“The World Health Organization estimates that the combined effect of decreased financial and political commitment may result in a return to over 500,000 measles deaths a year by 2013, erasing progress achieved over the past 18 years,” both said.
Carter and Annan cited three reasons why financing for vaccinations has been dwindling:
- “First, prevention is invisible. When immunization is successful, nothing happens. In contrast, disease or injury is highly visible and demands attention.
- Second, the global economy and many individual developing country economies are in deep distress.
- Third, there is both donor and recipient fatigue. Donors are tired of being asked to give more even though gains are measurable by decreases in child deaths. Recipients often get tired of having to ask for more, especially when they are having difficulty sustaining the costs of new vaccines.”
Both suggested the implementation of a balanced immunization investment strategy that emphasizes routine vaccinations and that rich countries recognize the increasing needs of the developing world – and adjust aid accordingly. They also urged governments to increase support for their own immunization programs and called on people to demand that vaccines be made available to them without barriers.