Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair, board of Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI), says she almost lost her son to typhoid after her cousin died of the same disease.
Okonjo-Iweala, who was Nigeria’s first female finance minister, shared her personal experience in Vientiane, Laos, while announcing a new funding for typhoid conjugate vaccines.
“Typhoid fever imposes a dramatic burden on children in the poorest nations affecting countries, communities and families,” she said.
“This disease has long been eliminated from most industrialised nations, but it is still a serious threat in developing countries where the vast majority of deaths occur.
“I lost my cousin and nearly lost my son because of typhoid. This vaccine will be a lifesaver for millions of children, especially those living without access to clean water or sanitation.”
Seth Berkley, GAVI’s chief executive officer, said drug-resistant typhoid cases is fast spreading in Africa and Asia thus posing a threat to public health.
“This vaccine is safe, effective and can provide lasting protection. The growing spread of drug resistant strains of typhoid is a major threat, not just to individuals but also to our efforts to control the disease. And this requires us to prioritise prevention strategies,” he said.
“Strong coverage through routine immunisation together with efforts to improve access to clean water and hygiene will play a key role in dramatically reducing the disease.”
A new typhoid conjugate vaccine produced by Bharat Biotech International Limited is presently being reviewed by the World Health Organisation.
Conjugate vaccines are preferable to other vaccines because they record very few, serious adverse events following immunisation and exhibit immunological memory (rapid response to a pathogen it has encountered before).
The GAVI board first identified typhoid conjugate vaccines as priority in 2008 but no financial commitment was made because there was no suitable vaccine.