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Global Problems Can be Solved

Injection safety efforts eliminate immunization-related infections in sub-Saharan Africa

Geneva/New York/Washington/Atlanta —   July 1, 2011

The Measles Initiative and the GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) announced today that infections resulting from the re-use of syringes for immunizations have been reduced to practically zero in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a study released in the Supplement of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Over the past decade, advocacy efforts and the funding of safe injection materials, including auto-disable (AD) syringes, have virtually eliminated the dangerous practice of reusing syringes for vaccinations in sub-Saharan Africa. The AD syringe is designed to prevent dangerous re-use by locking automatically after a single injection.

"The use of AD syringes is the best way of ensuring that children receive their shots safely, with no risk of contracting an infection due to contaminated devices," said Dr. Edward Hoekstra, Senior Health Specialist at UNICEF and main author of the study. "This is an encouraging step in reaching high health standards in some of the world’s poorest countries."

The study reports that the wide-spread introduction of these syringes into immunization programmes in the developing world was due to increased awareness regarding the risks of reusable syringes, large-scale mass measles campaigns, and support from GAVI. Starting in 1999 when the World Health Organization and UNICEF called for an improvement in injection safety standards, the global health community advocated for the exclusive use of AD syringes to deliver immunizations.

In 2000, roughly 39 per cent of all healthcare-related injections administered globally were delivered with reused disposable or inadequately sterilized syringes, which resulted in an estimated 23 million people infected annually with hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In 2001, the Measles Initiative built on this message when it started leading large-scale, nationwide measles catch-up campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa and other hot spots around the world. The Measles Initiative – a partnership led by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization – required that all of its campaigns use safe injection materials, including AD syringes. A total of 263 million children were vaccinated during measles campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa using AD syringes between 2001 and 2008. 

In addition, in 2002, GAVI provided funds to nearly 90 per cent (35 out of 39) of the sub-Saharan Africa countries over a three-year period to bolster injection safety support for routine immunization.

"Globally, more than one million infections are avoided each year through the exclusive use of the auto-disable syringes in immunization," said Helen Evans, GAVI interim CEO. "Dedicated funding, coupled with advocacy and training initiatives, have not only protected this generation of children against measles and other infectious diseases but have changed behaviour in a way that will benefit generations to come."

The report shows that the combined efforts of the Measles Initiative and GAVI has been significant. Demand for AD syringes for immunization increased substantially, with the number purchased by UNICEF increasing from just over 11 million in 1997 to 927 million in 2006.

Between 2001 and 2010, the Measles Initiative helped to vaccinate more than 900 million people worldwide and train health care workers across more than 60 countries to use this new device. 

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The Measles Initiative
The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance worldwide. For more information, please visit: www.measlesinitiative.org

The GAVI Alliance
The GAVI Alliance is a Geneva-based public-private partnership aimed at improving health in the world’s poorest countries. The Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

GAVI support consists of providing life-saving vaccines and strengthening health systems. In its first decade of work, GAVI has financed the immunisation of more than 288 million children and prevented more than five million premature deaths. For more information, please visit: www.gavialliance.org

 
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