Bill Roedy, former CEO of MTV, explains why he is passionate in the fight to end pneumonia, a preventable disease.
Bill Roedy with Pentavalent vaccine which has been administered to 400 million children as of 2013 in Dar-es-Salaam, GAVI, Tanzania, November 2013
As a music lover and former CEO of MTV Networks International, I’ve spent decades trying to give voice to young people struggling for creative freedom. More recently though I’ve also taken to a new cause: the struggle of babies and children in poor countries just to survive.
Few people can even name the leading global killer of young children — it’s pneumonia — and it claims a child’s life every 20 seconds. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of these deaths take place in the developing world where access to health prevention and care is sometimes complicated.
World Pneumonia Day (WPD), November 12, is an opportunity to remember those many young lives lost to pneumonia which could have been prevented in large part with vaccines, access to simple antibiotics and improved nutrition. If we could ensure that existing vaccines reach those children who need them most we would make a huge difference in preventing the more than 1.5 million young lives lost each year to this devastating disease.
Until recently, it would have taken 10 to 15 years for a vaccine released in the United States or Europe to be available in the developing world. Thankfully, the GAVI Alliance has been able to dramatically accelerate that timeline for the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccines, bringing them to the developing world much faster. GAVI is an innovative and effective organization which aims to use the same model for other lifesaving vaccines.
This weekend, in time for World Pneumonia Day, Malawi will become the 16th GAVI-supported country to introduce this life-saving vaccine. Three million children living in developing countries have already been reached, and another ten million are expected to receive the vaccine in 2012. This fact is especially important when one considers that 98.5 percent of pneumonia deaths occur in less developed countries, where distance, poverty and other factors put medical care out of reach for many.
As parents, we would stop at nothing to protect our children if they were sick. Many families — in rich and poor countries alike — are living in poverty or debt as a result of sickness in the family. By preventing disease in the first place, immunization can eliminate the need for hospitalization or expensive medical treatment, and in many cases help families avoid succumbing to poverty.
The introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine into the world’s poorest countries is a cornerstone of GAVI’s ambitious plan to ensure that all of the world’s children have a healthy start in life. But much remains to be done. Millions of children still do not receive this vaccine as well as other routine immunizations, and GAVI will need the continuing support and commitment of its donors to ensure that they do.
By 2015, the GAVI Alliance plans to help about 60 countries introduce this vaccine into their routine immunization systems, reaching a total of 90 million children. By helping to protect children with vaccines, GAVI partners and donors are supporting a major contribution to the Millennium Development Goal 4 which calls for a two thirds reduction in child mortality by 2015.
Key to this contribution has been GAVI’s Advance Market Commitment (AMC), an innovative finance mechanism that has accelerated the production of pneumococcal vaccines. By concluding long-term supply agreements at a ceiling price, the AMC reduced market uncertainty, thereby encouraging manufacturers to develop adequate production capacity and supply at lower prices. The AMC was made possible with US$ 1.5 billion from Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Norway, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is part of a broader GAVI plan to ensure that all children have equal access to life saving vaccines.
This World Pneumonia Day, join me in spreading the message that no child should die of a disease we can prevent.