As the 18-month mark of COVID-19 nears, people around the world are eager to return to normalcy. However, according to The New York Times, as of March 2021, more than 75% of all vaccine doses have gone to the wealthiest countries. Meanwhile, organizations are committed to fighting for vaccine equity so that lower-income nations are not overlooked in global vaccination plans for any diseases. The World Health Organization, UNICEF and Gavi, among other partners, launched the Immunization Agenda 2030 on April 26, 2021. The Agenda aims to “maximize the lifesaving impact of vaccines through stronger immunization systems.” This includes securing vaccines for developing countries.
Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP)
Prior to the Immunization Agenda, there was the Global Vaccine Action Plan, spanning from 2011-2020. The ultimate goals of GVAP were providing universal vaccination access and “reducing vaccine-preventable diseases.” Under GVAP, poliovirus types two and three were eradicated and measles incidents decreased by more than 80%. GVAP did not meet all of the goals it intended to, however, it did succeed in laying out a steady framework to proceed with the Immunization Agenda 2030.
The Immunization Agenda 2030 focuses on global participation in improving global vaccine access to reduce the threat of preventable diseases and ensure vaccine equity This requires strengthening healthcare and immunization systems and increasing accessibility. The strategy has primary targets to achieve the goal of saving more than 50 million lives through vaccines.
Targets for 2030
- Reach at least 90% coverage of core childhood and adolescent vaccines
- Reduce by 50% the number of children who go entirely unvaccinated
- “Complete 500 national or subnational introductions of new or under-utilized vaccines — such as those for COVID-19, rotavirus or human papillomavirus (HPV)”
Immunization for Global Development
Since “immunization is the foundation of a healthy, productive population” vaccines contribute to global development. Children who are in full health have better chances of educational success, which contributes to economic prosperity and reduces poverty. Furthermore, preventing diseases means easing the burden on healthcare systems throughout the world.
The Agenda hopes to completely eliminate yellow fever outbreaks by 2026 and “reduce viral hepatitis B deaths by 65% by 2030.” According to the WHO, 47 countries across Africa and Central and South America are most burdened with yellow fever. In 2013 alone, yellow fever is estimated to have killed up to 60,000 people. Additionally, Africa has the highest cases of viral hepatitis in the world. According to WHO global data, in 2015, almost 260 million people had hepatitis B. As these diseases are less prevalent in wealthier countries, the Immunization Agenda calls for accountability to ensure high-income nations are doing their part for global immunizations.
Achieving universal vaccine coverage comes with its own challenges. Vaccine hesitancy poses a threat to immunization. Founding partners of the Agenda place an emphasis on the trustworthy spread of information and an increase in health literacy to ensure vaccinations become a social norm. Additionally, the present threat of climate change greatly increases the risk of future pandemics and the spread of infectious diseases, especially via mosquitoes. The Agenda itself is working to limit the “environmental impact of vaccine waste.”
The Immunization Agenda provides reachable goals to greatly reduce preventable disease deaths. The Agenda is calling for leaders in global health to make their commitments to the Agenda explicit. It also encourages leaders to urgently invest in strengthening their health systems, especially in the wake of COVID-19. The Agenda prompts leading governments and scientists to invest more time into vaccine research and development to strengthen the impact of vaccines and combat global diseases more effectively. Vaccines are the foundation of global health security and the Immunization Agenda 2030 commits to achieving vaccine equity and ensuring vaccines reach the people who need them most.
– Monica Mellon