Message from the Director of the WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

by MMC
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September marked a pivotal moment in the quest for health for all.

During the much-anticipated meeting of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE)recommendations have been issued for three revolutionary new vaccines to fight malaria, dengue and meningitis.

Nearly half of the world’s population remains at risk of malaria. In 2021 alone, there were an estimated 247 million cases of malaria, resulting in 619,000 deaths. 95% of these cases and deaths occurred in Africa, disproportionately costing the lives of children under 5 years old. In response, SAGE and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group recommended R21/Matrix-M, a vaccine designed to protect vulnerable children from this infectious disease. This milestone follows WHO’s approval of the first malaria vaccine, RTS,S, two years ago, and brings us closer to our vision of a malaria-free world. Both vaccines are shown to be safe and effective in preventing malaria in children and, when widely implemented, are expected to have a significant impact on public health.

The SAGE meeting also recommended a dengue vaccine called “Qdenga”. Designed for children aged 6 to 16 living in dengue hotspot areas, this vaccine has the potential to protect young people against a significant public health threat. A third recommendation concerned the new Men5CV vaccine against meningitis, and for all countries in the African meningitis belt to introduce the new pentavalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine targeting serogroups A, C, Y, W and X (Men5CV) into their routine immunization programs on a single-dose schedule between 9 and 18 months.

The meeting also made a recommendation regarding Vaccination against COVID-19concluding that a single dose is sufficient for primary vaccination, given that most people have already had at least one infection.

United Nations General Assembly – three high-level meetings

The United Nations General Assembly has convened three high-level meetings, each of which will advance the global effort to scale up immunization. THE fight against tuberculosis (TB) took center stage with a focus on the advancement of science, finance and innovation, culminating in the formal adoption by United Nations Member States of a political declaration of a unprecedented ambition, aiming to provide life-saving treatment to 45 million people between 2023 and 2027. WHO Director-General officially launched the Tuberculosis Vaccine Acceleration Councilwhich will facilitate the development, registration and use of new anti-tuberculosis vaccines.

Universal Health Coverage (CSU) has also emerged as a rallying cry, rekindling collective efforts to ensure health equity for all. It laid the foundation for vigorous action, building on the 2019 Political Declaration.

Global disparities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted strengthening pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. A political declaration emerged, aimed at mobilizing national, regional and international support. This wide-ranging document commits to ensuring rapid, sustainable and equitable access to essential pandemic-related products, such as vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. WHO has been entrusted with the crucial task of orchestrating this effort in coordination with key partners.

Look forward to

We support countries to scale up and implement more Great catch-upoperationalization in country programs. Twenty-seven countries have already implemented business plans to catch up, restore and scale up immunization, and we have the power to make transformative progress toward the vision of robust primary health care services for populations vulnerable to worldwide.

We must ensure funding for immunization programs to help countries make necessary investments in health systems and people and better integrate primary care and broader health services. We must reach the generation of children who were exposed to preventable diseases while vaccination programs stalled during the pandemic years.

Waiting for the “The Future Summit“In 2024, we must have a long-term vision of vaccination. As a cornerstone of universal health coverage (UHC), primary health care (PHC) and resilient health systems, it is essential to ensure preparedness for future pandemics. Together we can move forward, united in our commitment to advancing health for all.

Finally, join us in celebrating World Meningitis Day today, October 5to raise awareness about the disease and Global roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030, approved by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in November 2020. The roadmap defines a global strategy »Towards a world without meningitis”, with three visionary goals, including the elimination of bacterial meningitis epidemics. Although the Roadmap to Overcoming Meningitis addresses all meningitis, regardless of the cause, it primarily focuses on the main causes of acute bacterial meningitis.

Vaccines are therefore essential to its success. These include the Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), meningococcal A conjugate (MenA) and pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) vaccines already available, vaccines about to be rolled out with the SAGE recommendation for Men5CV and vaccines still in development, including group vaccines. Streptococcus B (GBS) vaccines. Through global collective action, we can make a “meningitis-free world” our reality by 2030. Join us in celebrating and taking action on #BeatingMeningitis and #WorldMeningitisDay!

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