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BAKU.  Since 2013, the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation (RVF), in cooperation with the Azerbaijani Ministry of Health (MOH) and GAVI, has been implementing 3-year program to introduce the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in Azerbaijan. All infants in Azerbaijan, approximately 140,000 babies every year, are now receiving this life-saving vaccine. In 2014 the PCV vaccination coverage rate was steady 91%.

Mothers wait with their infants at a clinic in, Azerbaijan

Mothers wait with their infants at a clinic in, Azerbaijan

Pneumococcal disease, which includes pneumonia, meningitis and bacteremia, is one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of 5 years around the globe. In addition, children who survive meningitis often suffer permanent neurologic damage. PCV is a safe and efficient way to prevent pneumococcal disease.  The World Health Orgzanition (WHO) recommends that every country include PCV in its routine vaccination schedule for children.

As with all RVF-supported programs, this program is being implemented entirely through the existing public health infrastructure by local health care workers to build capacity and set the stage for full sustainability. Health care workers throughout the country are receiving training on the use of PCV and social mobilization to educate parents and maximize vaccination coverage rates.  Ongoing monitoring of the program is being overseen by the RVF in cooperation with the MOH.

The MOH has guaranteed full financial sustainability of the program by 2016.