Rotavirus is a virus that causes diarrhoea and affects almost all children before their fifth birthday. The disease can be very severe. In developing countries parents and health providers have access to treatments which mean that children can usually avoid the potential fatal consequences of the disease. This is not true in developing countries and children continue to die unnecessarily from rotavirus diarrhoea.
HPV causes cervical cancer which affects women in the Pacific Islands at disproportionately high rates. The HPV vaccine protects against the most serious types of HPV infection. Introducing this vaccine will save women’s lives and keep families whole.
Pneumococcal vaccine reduces the risks to young children of pneumonia, meningitis, and bacteraemia.
These vaccines are life-saving and the World Health Organization recommends that all three be included in every country’s routine immunisation program.
Once it was agreed to work in the Pacific we partnered with, and took advice from, UNICEF on which countries to target. Globally, most countries are able to finance basic immunisation programs and many introduce new vaccines as they become available. Immunisation programs in the very poorest countries qualify for additional funding from organisations like GAVI. The countries selected for this project fall in between these two funding models, able to provide the basic vaccines but not able to implement additional new vaccines and not eligible for GAVI funding.
This project has been designed to reach as many children as possible over the project lifespan, with the funds we aim to raise, and will be sustained because the respective governments have made a commitment to continue the vaccine programs when the project is completed.
• UNICEF is a long-term trusted partner.
• UNICEF Pacific has been operating in the region for many years. It has close relationships with governments and communities and successfully runs many immunisation programs there.
• Significant due diligence has been undertaken and we have a formal monitoring and evaluation reporting structure set up to ensure accountability.
(See ‘Rotary and UNICEF’ below for more detail)
In the case of RGECAF, UNICEF will set up the program in a way that allows the governments to continue to run the immunisation programs at the end of the initial funding period. Therefore, setting up the necessary infrastructure, training healthcare workers, and working with local communities to encouraging child immunisation programs will ensure long lasting benefits. The potential savings to the national healthcare budgets through lower hospitalisation rates and lower incidence of these diseases will offset the ongoing costs of the immunisation program.
Establishing new vaccines into an immunisation program is expensive. In addition to the cost of purchasing the vaccines, staff have to be trained, communities and parents educated and additional vaccine storage provided. This project will establish the programs and facilitate handovers to individual governments on completion.
RGECAF has a committee dedicated to fundraising which includes applying for Rotary Foundation global grants and seeking corporate and philanthropic sponsors. The most effective way Rotarians can participate in this project is to:
• contribute personally;
• create fundraising projects;
• seek out local corporate sponsors;
• encourage your club to donate club project funds to RGECAF;• encourage your district to donate from their District Designated Fund.
This will establish the immunisation programs in each of the nine countries and provide the foundation to protect children and families for generations to come. Every dollar collected goes to the program. Whether you think in New Zealand or Australian dollars, your contribution will make a tangible difference.
For this project to be sustainable it is critical that the implementation be left in the hands of local people, increasing the capabilities of these countries to look after themselves. However, there may be opportunities for some Rotarians to visit and see first-hand what is happening and possibly participate with local clubs in community awareness raising. The people required for this may need to have particular skills/qualifications.
For the majority of Rotarians, the best way that they can help is by playing a part in raising the necessary money to fund the project, raise awareness of the issues, and by using the project to promote Rotary and the work we do. Remember, this project is a celebration of 100 years of Rotary Australasia’s service in communities around the world.
And, please follow our progress on social media, through Rotary Down Under, Rotary Voices and other Rotary websites.
Improving workforce capacity across immunisation service providers in the project countries is one of the aims of the Rotary Give Every Child A Future and an important factor in assuring it’s sustainability.
The RGECAF project is being delivered by UNICEF and vaccines are administered by in-country healthcare workers. Healthcare professionals interested in volunteering or working for UNICEF in the Pacific, or indeed other regions of the world, can apply to UNICEF. As part of the United Nations, UNICEF recruits volunteers through UN Volunteers and employment opportunities can be found on the UNICEF Vacancies page.
As in the answer to the previous question, there will be some opportunity to visit the Pacific to observe the project. Details when available will be advertised through our website, social media and Rotary Downunder articles.
Along with all Rotarians, we hope you will support this Centenary project.
UNICEF Australia and UNICEF New Zealand will produce annual project reports showing where the funds raised have been spent and the difference this is making. There will also be opportunities for Rotary representatives to go to the Pacific to see the project first hand, enabling them to report back to fellow Rotarians.
UNICEF applies the principles of value for money to all its programs i.e. economy, efficiency, equity and effectiveness. No one element of value for money is more important than the other. For example, the benefit of cheap vaccine prices may be outweighed by reduced effectiveness based on the implementation context.
It is also worth emphasising that the procurement of vaccines is only part of the cost of delivering a program such as this. The Pacific has, literally hundreds and hundreds of islands dispersed over 16% of the earth’s surface. That’s an incredibly difficult logistical challenge. It means planes, boats and automobiles, people on donkeys, people carry things on their backs. UNICEF is working hard to reach every community.
For the rotavirus vaccine recipients may have slightly increased risk of developing mild diarrhoea or vomiting in the week after being vaccinated. Serious side effects are very rare but there is a slightly increased risk of intussusception, a rare form of bowel blockage. However, the risks of rotavirus gastroenteritis are many times greater than the very small risk of the vaccine. Before rotavirus vaccine became available in Australia and New Zealand, almost every child was infected by rotavirus by the age of 5 years. In Australia, about 10,000 young children were hospitalised with rotavirus gastroenteritis each year and up to one young child a year died from complications. Since rotavirus vaccinations started there in 2007, more than 7,000 hospital admissions for rotavirus have been prevented each year. Those who do go to see a doctor are less sick. This compares with more than 200 babies being hospitalised for intussusception each year, of which only about an extra 14 may be related to having received rotavirus vaccine. Based on the established benefits of rotavirus vaccine and the rare occurrence of intussusception, the World Health Organization and the New Zealand and Australian Immunisation Advisory Committees recommend the continued use of rotavirus vaccine for infants on immunisation programs.
The pneumococcal vaccine is very safe, although, like all vaccines, there are possible side effects. It is not possible to catch a pneumococcal infection from the vaccine, as the vaccine doesn’t contain any live bacteria. Mild side effects of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), which is the version of the pneumococcal vaccine given to babies under the age of two, include: decreased appetite, a slightly raised temperature, irritability, redness, hardness or swelling at the site of the injection, feeling sleepy or not sleeping well. More serious side effects are very rare, but include a high temperature, possibly leading to convulsions (febrile seizures) and allergic/anaphylactic reactions.
With HPV vaccine, some people might experience mild adverse effects typical of other injected vaccines: soreness, swelling, redness at the injection site, mild temperature or feeling faint. The World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety continues to review the accumulating data on HPV vaccine safety and finds that the vaccine is safe, with over 10 years of data and over 200 million doses given worldwide.