The World Health Organization calls immunizations “one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions ever introduced.” Immunization prevents as many as three million deaths each year from things like polio, measles, diphtheria, tetanus and a host of other maladies. In recent years, vaccines have been developed to protect against the two biggest killers of children under five years old in the developing world: pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhea.
Despite this success only one in five children in the world have access to vaccines that protect against preventable childhood illnesses. Enter GAVI — the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations — a public-private partnership backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that helps make vaccines more widely accessible in the developing world.
I caught up with Joan Awunyo-Akaba, a civil society representative to GAVI’s board, while she was in Washington, DC. Awunyo-Akaba is a registered nurse by profession and Founder of Future Generations International (FUGI), a Ghanaian-based NGO focusing on health promotion and development. We discuss her work in Ghana, how GAVI is boosting vaccination rates across the country, and Ghana’s fascinating new push for universal health coverage for all citizens. Have a listen!