This morning I attended a breakfast meeting on EU development aid and childhood immunisation in the world's poorest countries. The event was organised by the European Parliament Working Group on innovation, access to medicines and poverty-related diseases, a working group coordinated by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors without borders).
Childhood immunisation or vaccination is something that we in the UK and other EU countries take for granted. In the UK there is a comprehensive childhood immunisation programme which vaccinates children against diseases such as diptheria, polio, whooping cough, meningitis and measles. The programme is free of charge via the NHS and when a child reaches the age for a particular vaccine, parents are invited to bring their child to their local GP surgery.
However, in some of the poorest countries in the world, many children miss out on vaccinations, which can lead to serious illness (in countries where treatment may be unavailable or unaffordable by many) and even death.
The World Health Organisation estimate that vaccination prevents 2.5 million deaths a year. Organisations like GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) have made significant progress in helping poor countries expand vaccination but there is still progress to be made.
Participants at the event discussed how best the EU can continue to support countries with vital childhood immunisation programmes via development aid, which is currently being reviewed by the parliament. The MEPs present all committed to working to make sure that immunisation remains a priority for EU aid funding.