The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has started the global rollout of the new pneumonia vaccine in Kenya, according to interim CEO, Helen Evans. Pneumonia has continued to be a major public health issue in Kenya, with the World Health Organization reporting that it is the country’s second leading killer among children, after malaria. The vaccine, already available in various private hospitals, has remained out of reach for many children, due to its $188 price tag.
Kenya is currently the first African country to roll out what in medical circles is referred to as "pneumococcal vaccine". Within the year, children in other poor countries such as Nicaragua, Mali, Yemen and Sierra Leone will also have access to the vaccine. President Mwai Kibaki Monday officially launched the pneumococcal vaccine that will immunize children in the country against pneumonia, the second largest killer of children below five years. The President assured Kenyans that his Government will also provide the vaccine to recognized immunization centers in faith-based and private health facilities to make it more accessible to all Kenyans.
With the help of this vaccine, the Beth Mugo Minister for Public Health and Sanitation emphasised that "cutting down morbidity and mortality from pneumonia will save families the emotional and financial stress of having a sick child, the heartache of losing a child in death and will also enable the government to channel the cost of treatment towards productive economic activities."
The pain of losing a child to pneumonia is one that Hannah Kaigai knows all too well, "My boy caught pneumonia when he was seven months old. From then on his health was never the same. He was always cold, even during very hot weather and he passed on aged three."There are many mothers in the country who can relate similarly painful experiences of having lost a child to pneumonia. However, many more will be saved the heartache if they take their infants to hospitals for the vaccine.
According to GAVI, the vaccine has prevented an estimated five million deaths since it was created in 2000. The government is therefore optimistic that pneumonia will cease to be a leading cause of death and has predicted that the vaccine will prevent an estimated seven million deaths by 2030.
Speaking during the occasion, Beth Mugo affirmed the Government's commitment to continue providing nationwide infant immunization programmes to eradicate the childhood killer diseases.The Minister observed that due to the concerted efforts, a whole generation of Kenyan children has been spared the horrible experience of measles and polio