Pneumococcal Vaccination Program in the West Bank and Gaza Sustained

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Since January 2012 all infants in Gaza and the West Bank have been receiving the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).  The Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH) assumed full financial responsibility for sustaining the program in the West Bank and Gaza in 2013. A vaccination program financed by the Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation (Zayed Foundation) and managed by the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation (RVF) during 2010-2012 served as a model for the program covering all territory  in Gaza and the West Bank . The vaccine prevents such killer diseases as pneumonia and meningitis.

A mobile clinic ensures that infants in a Bedouin camp near Bethlehem are vaccinated against pneumococcal disease
A mobile clinic ensures that infants in a Bedouin camp near Bethlehem are vaccinated with PCV

Pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis are the leading vaccine-preventable killers of children under five years of age worldwide. For this reason the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that countries provide the pneumococcal vaccine to all infants as part of their routine vaccination schedule.

“The introduction of pneumococcal vaccine represents a top public health priority of the Ministry of Health (MOH) of the Palestinian National Authority and is part of a long-term initiative to make modern vaccines available to all children in Palestine”, said Dr. Hani Abdeen, the Palestinian Minister of Health.

“We are extremely grateful to the Zayed Foundation for giving us the resources to protect our children from debilitating and sometimes fatal pneumococcal infections”, said Dr. Asad Ramlawi, Director General of the Ministry’s Primary Health Care and Public Health Directorate.

The inclusion by the MOH of the latest generation of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in the routine vaccination schedule for children means that the current vaccination program, which was launched by the RVF in 2010, is now fully financed and sustained with local resources and has been since 2013. Thus every infant in Gaza and the West Bank – approximately 120,000 babies every year – continue to be vaccinated and protected from life-threatening pneumococcal infections after the assistance from the Zayed Foundation and the RVF came to an end in January 2013.

Vaccination in West Bank and Gaza
A young family awaits the pneumococcal vaccination at a clinic in Bethlehem. Every infant in the West Bank and Gaza will now receive this life-saving vaccine

The requirement of financial and operational sustainability is an inherent part of all programs supported by the Zayed Foundation and the RVF.

As the next step in modernizing immunizations for children in Gaza and the West Bank, the RVF plans to assist the MOH in introducing the rotavirus vaccine. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe and sometimes fatal diarrhea in children under five years of age. Therefore, the WHO recommends that the rotavirus vaccine be included in all national immunization programs.

Established in 1993 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahayan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation has carried on his vision by implementing large-scale humanitarian projects. The Zayed Foundation has worked to build hospitals, schools, universities and colleges, social and cultural centers as well as implemented water well drilling projects throughout drought affected-countries in Africa. Many of the Zayed Foundation’s projects were executed in partnership with regional and international organizations, such as UNDP, UNHCR, UNRWA, UNESCO, The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and have won international accolades.