ABU DHABI// A five-in-one vaccine against several potentially fatal childhood diseases has been launched in Somalia and could save thousands of lives, it was announced at the Global Vaccine Summit this week.
The pentavalent vaccine will protect Somali children against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B.
More than 1.3 million doses have been provided for this year alone, and these will be given to children younger than 1 year old. Somalia has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, with one in five dying before their fifth birthday.
"Somalia has one of the lowest immunisation rates in the world," said Dr Seth Berkley, the chief executive of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). "The country's health system has been destroyed after more than 20 years of conflict and thousands of children are not protected against major killer diseases. This situation is unacceptable and that's why GAVI and its donors have committed substantial funding to Somalia until 2016."
The introduction of pentavalent vaccine means that, for the first time in 35 years, children in Somalia are being offered a vaccination that protects them against more than diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, polio and tuberculosis, diseases for which they already receive vaccinations.