–Joe Cerrell is director of Global Health Policy and Advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. He oversees the foundation’s global health communications, public policy, and international finance. The views expressed are his own. –
I recently took my three-year-old twin daughters to their annual doctor visit, where they received their latest round of routine vaccinations. Thanks to the miracle of vaccines, I know my daughters will be protected for life against measles, tetanus, and other diseases that were once serious threats. But incredibly, millions of children in poor countries still die from diseases that could easily be prevented with the effective, affordable vaccines that Americans take for granted.
Fortunately, that is starting to change. This week, a landmark report from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the World Bank concludes that a renewed global push on childhood immunization has raised the number of children vaccinated to an all-time high. The authors find that vaccines now save 2.5 million lives worldwide every year.
(Read related Reuters story: Global immunizations hit record but miss millions.)
As we continue expanding access to basic vaccines that have existed for decades, we also need to ensure that new vaccines quickly reach children in need. Typically, when new vaccines are invented, they don’t become available in poor countries until years, or even decades, after being introduced in the U.S. What’s more, effective vaccines don’t yet exist for some of the developing world’s biggest killers, like malaria and HIV.