Raquel Gutierrez, a Nicaraguan mother, still remembers the trauma of losing her child to pneumonia, the biggest killer of children. Her daughter died after 13 days in hospital.
“She wouldn’t wake up, she wouldn’t move, she had lots of medical equipment around her little body,” says Raquel.
“I suffered a lot from seeing her like that.”
But pregnant with her second child, Raquel is much less worried about the risks of pneumonia now. Her country, Nicaragua, was one of more than a dozen developing countries supported by GAVI that have introduced a new vaccine against pneumococcal disease, the leading cause of pneumonia.
“Having the vaccine now, many mothers will stop suffering,” says Raquel. “We will feel that our kids won’t suffer from this horrible disease.”
Around the world, pneumonia kills a child every 20 seconds. It is the leading infectious killer of children. But immunisation against pneumococcal disease can dramatically reduce the number of pneumonia deaths.
Set up in 2000, the GAVI Alliance’s mission is to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.
And while earlier versions of the pneumococcal vaccine have been available in the western world, GAVI’s work accelerated the production of a pneumococcal vaccine appropriate for use in developing countries. Without GAVI’s support for this vaccine, mothers like Raquel might have had to wait another 10 or 15 years before the vaccine became available.
Now, GAVI expects to support the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine into more than 40 developing countries by 2015 and to save as many as 7 million child lives by 2030.
“Now that I will have a new baby,” says Raquel, “I am happy the vaccine is here.”